Cara Natterson, MD is a pediatrician and New York Times bestselling author; Vanessa Kroll Bennett is a puberty educator and writer. Together, they host The Puberty Podcast; run Order of Magnitude, the leading brand dedicated to flipping puberty positive; and they wrote the forthcoming book This Is So Awkward: Modern Puberty Explained (Rodale Books, Oct 2023).

Cara and Vanessa can be found on Instagram and TikTok @spillingthepubertea.

Perhaps their biggest cred, however, is that between them, they parent six teens.

455: Modern Puberty Explained

Cara Natterson, MD and Vanessa Kroll Bennett

Kids are starting puberty these days earlier than ever before—with the average age of onset at 8-9 in girls and 9-10 for boys!

This means that we want to start thinking about those tricky conversations earlier than later.

How DO we talk about kid’s bodily and hormonal changes? Cara Natterson, pediatrician, and Vanessa Kroll, puberty educator come on the podcast to talk about their new book, “This Is So Awkward.”

Modern Puberty Explained - Cara Natterson, MD and Vanessa Kroll Bennett [455]

Read the Transcript 🡮

*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Cara: Puberty starts earlier, it lasts longer, and it happens with a cell phone.

[00:00:14] Hunter: You're listening to The Mindful Parenting Podcast, episode number 455. Today, we're talking about modern puberty explained with Dr. Cara Natterson and Vanessa Kroll Bennett.

Welcome to The Mindful Parenting Podcast. Here, it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Parenting, we know that you cannot give what you do not have, and when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clarkfields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years, I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course, and I'm the author of the international bestseller, Raising Good Humans, and now Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 Simple Ways to Rest, Pause, Stay Present and Connect with Your Kids. Welcome back to the Mindful Parenting Podcast.

So glad you are here. Um, listen, if you get some value from the podcast, please, please, please tell a friend about it. Text a friend, tell them what you're listening to, and maybe they can get some use out of it. Tell a friend. That is the best, best way for us to grow, cuz. You know, if you're a listener of the podcast, I'm going to love your friends too.

Like, let's grow this family. So, tell a friend. In just a moment, I'm going to be sitting down with Kara Natterson, a pediatrician and New York Times bestselling author, and Vanessa Kroll Bennett, a puberty educator and writer, and together they host the Puberty Podcast. Run Order of Magnitude, the leading brand dedicated to flipping puberty positive, and they wrote the forthcoming book, This is So Awkward, Modern Puberty Explained.

And this is such an important conversation because kids are starting puberty these days earlier than ever before, with the average age of onset at eight to nine, ages eight to nine in girls and nine to 10 for boys. I mean, whoa, right? And this means that we want to start thinking about these. tricky conversations earlier than later.

Okay, so how do we talk about kids bodily and hormonal changes? And we have to talk about it, right? So how do we do it? Kara and Vanessa talk about their book. This is so awkward, me to ask all those questions. This is going to be such a valuable episode for you. Don't skip it. You need to know this stuff.

It's so important and it's not so scary. So um, so yeah, they're, they make it really easy and make it fun. So I know you're going to get a lot out of this episode. Join me at the table as I talk to Kara and Vanessa.

Kara and Vanessa, thank you so much for coming on the Mindful Parenting podcast. I'm so glad you're here.

[00:03:15] Vanessa: Happy to be here. Thanks for having us.


[00:03:18] Hunter: Well, you guys have a book. I love the title of your book. This is so awkward. It is. We're already talking about puberty today. What fun.

[00:03:29] Vanessa: It is fun, Hunter. We boiled it down to its very essence.

We were like, what word represents the process of puberty and the process of talking about puberty more than the word Awkward.

[00:03:42] Hunter: Awkward. Awkward is the one. It's totally that one. Okay. Well, I'm excited to talk about this because things have changed a lot since we went through puberty, since many of the listeners went through puberty.

So let's just kind of start there. How has puberty changed? It's Physically, socially, and emotionally since we went through it.

[00:04:06] Cara: So, this is Cara, and I'll start with the big, broad summary statement, which is that puberty starts earlier. It lasts longer and it happens with a cell phone. And if you frame it that way, you're like, Oh gosh, okay, what hasn't changed?

So the details around it, um, it starts earlier. The average age of the beginning of puberty for girls in this country is between eight and nine. And the average age for boys is between nine and 10. And that's about two to three years earlier than the average age a couple of generations ago. But it's not going any faster.

And this is the part that's hard to wrap your brain around. It's actually going slower. Because when we look at first periods and other middle markers of puberty, things that happen in the middle of the process, they're not really happening any earlier at all. So a typical girl journey through puberty starts between eight and nine, and she gets her first period around 12, 12 and a quarter, 12 and a half.

That is a nice long three to four year run before you're even at the halfway point.

[00:05:18] Hunter: Oh, okay. All right. Well, so this is like your statement, like highlighted my ignorance of puberty right there, because when you said average age, eight to nine for girls and thinking girls are getting their period at eight to nine, cause I just think of like, that is the big thing with girls and puberty is you get your period.

Right. Right. But, so, what are the things that are happening before they're getting their period when they're eight or nine years old? Dr.

Julie Kinn

[00:05:43] Vanessa: So the first sign, uh, besides a slamming door, the first sign of puberty is, um, breast development, breast budding in girls and, um, penile and testicular growth in boys.

And for anyone who's had breast buds. They know that breast buds somehow poke out of every item of clothing, even like your down coat in the middle of winter, somehow you can see breast buds through them. They're the most obvious bodily change besides maybe like a full beard. But with boys, penile and testicular growth is like boys get private right around the age their bodies start changing and it's really slow.

Like it's not like they wake up one morning and they have an adult size penis and testicles. It's a very, very slow process of that kind of unlike breast buds, which are obvious to the entire world. And so often People know that girls have begun puberty, are aware that girls are beginning to develop, but they're not aware that boys are, because they don't see their boys running around naked in the house.

They don't see the change, and it's so slow. Um, and so when Cara talks about the data of average age of girls, puberty is about between 8 and 9, and again, that's an average. There's lots of people. Um, at either end of the spectrum of the average and for boys between nine and ten on average, but people think we're wrong and we're bananas because they don't see the boy's physical development.

[00:07:20] Cara: And there's a long list of things that happen during puberty. So, um, breast and penile and testicular growth is one thing. Um, the voice drops, right? That's another thing in all genders actually. You gain weight, you gain height, you gain curves, or you don't gain curves. So those are other changes. There are changes like acne and hair growth and body odor that are actually not exactly puberty.

They're a process called adrenarche, which is just a different set of hormones causing them, but they happen at the same time as puberty and they get worse thanks to a lot of the sex hormones that are in charge of puberty. So you've heard of hormonal acne, for instance. And so those are all changes that kids anticipate and adults anticipate right alongside of puberty.

Um, but you know, there are lots of unspokens that happen, like erections and wet dreams that people are nervous to talk about. And they go, they really go untalked about until The two of us are in front of them on a stage or in a classroom and we're saying, it's okay. You can talk about all of this because none of this should be stigmatized.

None of this is bad. It's just the body changing. This is just what happens.

[00:08:37] Hunter: Okay. So if all this is happening and this seems to be the theme, like we've had Amy Lang, we talked on the podcast several times. We talk about how to talk about sex and different things and what I'm imagining that you're gonna say is that if we, if this is all happening earlier, if this is all happening like at starting at age, maybe age eight for girls or age nine for boys, which, you know, it seems like they're just really little kids then, that, that we should be probably getting ahead of the game and talking about it with our kids, you're yet another.

Wonderful expert pushing us towards these incredibly awkward conversations. 

[00:09:21] Cara: Okay. We are, we are big Amy Lange fans. Let's just start there. We love Amy. She's great. And see, we are in her camp. But Hunter, here's the thing, I'm going to let Vanessa explain the how, cause she's a, she's masterful at it. But here's the thing.

When you enter puberty, you do not immediately become interested in sexual activity. So, you get to separate those things out in your mind. Yes, puberty is happening earlier. Yes, it's the path to sexual maturity, but that path is long. It can take up to a decade and because it happens so slowly, there's plenty of time for kids to develop these urges.

One thing though that has also changed, remember, starts earlier, lasts longer, happens with the cell phone. It's that cell phone and laptop and iPad and video console platform and all those things. Kids are being exposed to porn much earlier, much earlier. The average age of first porn exposure in this country is 12, 15 percent of all 10 year olds have seen pornography.

And because of that fact, we know we've got to talk about some of these topics sooner with kids. It's not that they're interested in sexual activity sooner. It's that when they are on devices. They are, they run the risk of being exposed to all of this content sooner. So, um, you know, I, I don't want to jump in and, and be the asker of questions, but maybe Vanessa, because people get really nervous when we talk about this, maybe Vanessa can just Chime in with one example of how to begin a conversation about sex and any of it with a younger kid if it has to start younger.

[00:11:09] Vanessa: Yeah. I mean, the first thing is, Hunter, I can hear it in your voice, like the, the nerves, the discomfort, the like, and listen, we do this for a living and we still get nervous having these conversations sometimes. So, for anyone listening who's like, I can't do this. I didn't grow up in a home where we talked about this or I'm gonna mess it up or I don't know what to say.

Yes, you are going to mess it up. We all mess it up and it's fine. You take the do over, you try again, you go for another tact. It's totally fine. And think about all the ways we mess up as parents and our kids are great. And we do it again and we try another way and it's all fine. So for anyone freaking out, and if you've listened to Amy Lang on this podcast, then you know you're in excellent hands and you can use humor and compassion and empathy and authenticity to have these conversations.

So, Be yourself. Narrate how you're feeling. So if I'm Hunter and I'm like freaking out that I've got to have, you know, the talk about like, I don't know, wet dreams or something like that, I can say, not to put words in your mouth, Hunter. Um, I can say, I am so nervous. My pits are sweaty and like, I'm feel a little bit nauseous cause I'm so nervous, but this is really important cause this is about your growing body.

And so I am going to teach you about something that. I don't actually know a lot about, but I know it's important for us to have this conversation. Have you ever heard the term wet dreams? And they'll probably be like, Oh my God, I can't believe you're talking to me about this. Or they might say, Yeah, I've heard it, but I don't really know what it means.

And that's your way in, right? Or with the porn conversation, Hey, have you ever heard the word porn or pornography? And they'll probably say like, Yeah, you know, maybe a 10 year old might say like, yeah, I know it's really bad. You say, well, what does it mean? And they'll usually at first say, oh, I know exactly what it means.

And then when you say to them, well, how would you define it? They'll be like, oh, I don't know. I don't know. I don't actually know what it is. Because kids feel all this pressure to know. What these things are. So narrate how you're feeling, admit to your discomfort and awkwardness, use humor, figure out where your kid is, right?

Meet them where they are, find out what definitions they know or don't know. And be prepared to mess up and then take the do over when you mess up because you a hundred percent will blow it at some point or another.

[00:13:55] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

I think we probably, we just have to like, I think we have to go into this like remembering that like there's a lot of comedy about this for a reason and maybe we need to just like see the. Comedy in ourselves doing this. You don't laugh. You might cry. You know, we have , we have to, we have to laugh at it.

Okay. All right. So, so, okay, so we, we can talk about it, we can narrate how we're feeling, we can ask them what they know. This is great and, and we have talked about a lot of this, which is good with Amy. So dear listener, you know, just go on mindful mama Such as Amy Lang, you can find these, these are really important episodes.

I, I, those are the, those are the episodes I share with people the most of my podcast. Um, but I want to know, like, with the puberty, you know, why, why, so why do we have, I mean, I can see why we have to start talking to, about kids, to kids about porn, because if you, if a kid has a cell phone, you're giving them access to porn, right?

Like, like that's, that's the way the world is, right? Like, I, I can see that, but why? Are these physical changes in their bodies happening earlier than they would be for, like, generations past?

[00:15:14] Cara: Yeah, so it's important to put in the context that this shift is not brand new. The data started becoming clear in the late 1990s, 25 years ago, we knew that puberty was starting earlier.

And over the last 10 years, what we've known is it's much earlier, right? That's where we get this two to three years sooner data. The why has probably three gigantic explanations. Uh, maybe more than three, but we're going to give the three that we know of thanks to the data. So the first is everything that we put into and onto our bodies.

I mean, it's gigantic. A lot of the foods we eat, things we drink, cosmetics we use have inside of them chemicals generally known as endocrine disrupting hormones. So, or endocrine disrupting chemicals, EDCs. And endocrine just means hormone. Um, and so these chemicals disrupt the way hormones work in our body.

And when it comes to puberty, they disrupt the way sex hormones work and it's sex hormones that are in charge of helping the body become physically mature. So, that is a massive category and a lot of people are doing a lot of work to try to figure out what are these common denominator chemicals that are actually doing this.

We don't have an answer yet, Hunter, but as soon as we do, we promise we will call you and tell you. So that is

[00:16:42] Hunter: I was like, uh, I have to interject here. I was paranoid about this. Actually, I like learned about it. Some of this stuff when my kids were young. And I, I learned about, you know, some of the things I started to freak out about because I was like, oh, their bodies are so little, they just can't take, you know, so much load of whatever chemicals that we have.

So, we lived for, I don't know, seven years with just a futon in our living room because I got rid of the old, the big couch because it had, Uh, flame retardants in it. And I was just like, I remember like watching my daughter like bounce on that couch and just picturing the poof of chemicals that were like coming up from the cushions.

And I was like, Oh my God, I can't do it. And we're just like, it's out of my house. I can't even deal with that. So I can understand the fear.

[00:17:29] Cara:  Right. And it's hard to control because then you start thinking about everything you eat, everything you drink, every shampoo you use, every cut, like it's. It's unthinkable, so the science needs to get there.

The other two drivers of this, um, number one is antibiotics. Now this is not antibiotics that you take for strep throat or an ear infection. It is the antibiotics that are being put into chicken feed and cow feed that are then entering our food chain. And there's a lot of data that these antibiotics at sort of low doses when they get to human consumers.

are shifting puberty a little bit. The last category, and believe it or not, this is the biggest category, is stress. So the stress hormone cortisol definitely plays some role in tripping kids into puberty sooner. Um, we don't know exactly how it works. There are people who are trying to work that out as well.

But when you stop and think about the world our kids are growing up in. It is overwhelming, overwhelmingly stressful. It is stressful from a big picture standpoint, the environmental crisis, war, um, gun violence that they're hearing about right on the, on the macro level, it's overwhelming. On the micro level, it's overwhelming.

The expectations of them in school, in sport, in life, these kids are growing up with stressors all around them and their cortisol levels are higher. than ours were when we were young, and those cortisol levels are definitely tripping some of them into puberty sooner.

[00:19:07] Hunter: Wow. That's really fascinating. So food and cosmetics, endocrine disrupting chemicals, antibiotics in the food chain, and then stress.

And, you know, they're getting stressed from, yeah, that whole everything. And then our stress, right? Like, we're more stressed about all the things. So I hope, don't let this be a vicious cycle. Dear listener of like, Oh my God, I'm now stressed about all these causes and I'm going to just You know, being, you know, actually you'd want to have a little, you know, help yourself de stress that becomes a, it, as always, as I always say in all the things we've listened to, you reducing your stress and taking care of your self, your self care is a priority for you to be able to respond to your kids in any kind of thoughtful way.

And also not. Pass on a ton of stress as well to them.

[00:19:56] Vanessa: Yeah. I mean, we, we always tell adults that it's okay, like it's understandable to feel surprised, stressed, worried, concerned, all of that, and. Find your own trusted adult to talk to about it. Find a, you know, a partner, a friend, a therapist, somebody. But your kids should not be your outlet for your worries about this.

You should not be processing your concerns out loud to them because as Cara just illustrated, like, that only loads, that adds to their stress load and our job is to help unburden them. Um, but, um, But find someone to talk about it, because like, we definitely need to get this stuff out. It's just not to our kids.

[00:20:38] Hunter: Yes. Yes. I completely agree. Okay. So it's happening earlier. We can know why it's happening earlier. Do we, when we talk to, when we start to talk to kids about puberty, if we start to see like breast buds on our daughter or we start to see stains on our son's mattresses or whatever, this is when we want to just kind of.

Make sure we explain what puberty is. I mean, you talked about how to talk about it, you know, how to, how to be honest and authentic and things like that. But what are the things that we should like talk about first? Like, hey, this is, yeah, you take, yeah.

[00:21:16] Vanessa: I mean, we start. Um, we'd like to say it's never too early and it's never too late, right?

So if you have a 15 year old and you've never had these conversations, now is the time. Um, but we let's, we believe you start on the changing table using anatomically correct terms for kids body parts, right? Research tells us that kids who know the names for all of their body parts are safer from sexual predation than kids who are using.

Um, kitty names, cutie names, you know, not anatomically correct names. The second thing is conversations about consent and respect for our own bodies and other people's bodies, our own wishes and other people's wishes. can start really young. Like preschoolers and kindergartners are great age to start having conversations about like, Hey, you know what?

Somebody asked you to stop touching their hair. Can you please listen up and hear that they're asking you to stop? Or, um, as kids get older, like the temptation was when, um, our friend Shafia Zaloum talks about the french fries on a plate. Um, she's a sexuality educator in the Bay Area and like, You know, when you see a plate of French fries, all you want to do is grab a bunch of the French fries off someone else's plate because they look delicious.

But it's like, ask permission. Hey, do you mind if I take a couple of French fries? Right? So demonstrating consent, modeling consent. Before it has anything to do with sex, is it something you can start really young, age appropriate? Um, and then if we know the average age of kids entering puberty is between 8 and 9, then if you have like an 8 or 9 year old in your house, whether or not their body appears to be changing, it's a good time to talk to them about people's bodies changing.

Because even if their body's not changing, their friend's bodies might be changing. They might be looking and noticing and wondering and thinking, Is that normal? If my body's not changing, am I normal? Right? They're constantly comparing themselves to others. And that lasts, not only does puberty last a decade, comparison to others lasts through that whole decade too.

So, start small, make sure your kid knows all the anatomically correct Vocabulary, make sure they're engaged in conversations around consent, and make sure you normalize that changing bodies is okay, and everybody is on a different timeline, because everyone worries that there, there's something wrong with them.

If they're early, they're worried. If they're late, they're worried. As Cara says, if they're right in the middle, they're worried. So normalize that everyone is on a different timeline, on their own unique timeline.

[00:23:56] Hunter: I like that, that normalizing the different timelines and, you know, I guess we can have these conversations and say, these are just important conversations to have.

You know, your, your body may do this at some point in a few years from now, but your friends may, bodies may be doing this now, or you may. Be having, you know, kind of, I guess in some ways you're, you're going to, um, you're going to sort of offer possibilities. You're not going to like maybe ask direct questions about like, Hey, are you having wet dreams, right?

[00:24:32] Cara: Oh, Hunter, never ask a yes, no question. That is a rookie error. Yes. 

[00:24:39] Vanessa: But you can say, I mean, we like the, Hey, are people in your grade talking about wet dreams? Cause sometimes that's something that comes up around this age, right? So instead of the, are you, it's the, are your friends, are people around you?

And we should say just the same way that periods are a middle marker. Um, for female puberty, wet dreams are more of a middle marker for male puberty. So like, um, a kid whose penis or testicles have just started growing and maybe they're like, uh, in the early end, they're not the ones who are going to be having wet dreams.

That happens later on when there's more and more testosterone, when the, the testosterone factory, AKA the testicles is really up and running, um, and in business and that the hormones have been circulating in the body for a while. So. We don't want, um, parents of younger kids to be like, Oh my God, I haven't had the wet dreams conversation.

It's okay. Cause there's lots of foundational conversations you can have ahead of that. Um, and the wet dreams conversation is sometimes just like, Hey, I noticed something on your sheets, right? If you do have a 12 or 13 or 14 year old living in your house and there was a wet patch in the sheets, it's not necessarily like you had your first wet dream, let's sit and talk about it for like a week.

All afternoon. You can just say, Hey dude, I noticed there's a web patch. I don't know if you know what that is, but. It could be that you had a wet dream and like, I'm happy to answer any questions you have. Or, do you want to know how to wash your sheets if that happens? Or, did you notice anything in your pajamas this morning?

Right? It's really casual, it's really non confrontational, no shame, no judgment, no freaking out, even if you're screaming inside your own head. You want to fake it till you make it and act like really calm and chill about it.

[00:26:32] Hunter: Okay. All right. Sounds good. Now, what about what's happening for. For us to know as parents, what may be happening in the brain at, at puberty, like we've talked about the sexual organs and there's the sex hormones and things like that, but there's changes, corresponding changes in the brain as well.

[00:26:49] Cara: What's amazing about brain development is that It is totally independent of puberty. And so it, the moods are impacted by the sex hormones, right? In fact, you know, Louise Greenspan, who does many of these studies on the onset of puberty, she, she is the one who coined the phrase, the first sign of puberty is a slamming door.

It's so true, right? Because you have these hormones, estrogen and testosterone being the two most common that you hear about, and they're up in the brain and they're changing the way the brain feels and the way it works. But actual brain development, the ability to make good consequential choices and to think in more sophisticated and higher level ways, that's not dependent on puberty at all.

And this gets very confusing because If we're telling you that puberty starts younger, and we're telling you that kids at age 8, look older than they used to at those same ages. Then how do we reconcile that with the fact that their brain still works like 12 year old brains? They might look older, but they don't think older.

And it can be very hard for adults, whether it's parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, healthcare providers, it can be very hard for adults to actually treat a kid how old they are instead of how old they look. So on this front, we like to remind people. all the time and over and over again. They are chronologically a given age.

That is essentially where their brain is supposed to be for their age. Just because they physically develop sooner or later. The late ones who look younger, they're not thinking younger. They're thinking the age they are. And why does it matter, Hunter? Because the ability to make smart consequential choices, which relies upon your prefrontal cortex.

That ability is going to take almost 30 years to develop. They have, they have a prefrontal cortex. They can make those choices. They just can't, the signaling doesn't happen very quickly to and from that part of their brain. So they're tweens, they're teens, they're twenties. are going to be decades of time when inside their brain, they're doing battle between the impulsive feel good thing and the smart consequential thing.

And the three of us have fully developed brains. We can weigh the consequences and make ostensibly make the right choice each time. They can't, they can't till they're almost 30. So, you know, it's a very, the brain development, very linear. Even slower than puberty.

[00:29:43] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

Oh man. I don't, you know, sometimes I don't know what to do with that because they need. Responsibility, right? They need to, like, make mistakes. They need to get out in the world and do things and drive cars and get a job and all the things. And, and then, I mean, I guess we just let them know, like, hey, just be aware.

But this is, this may not be, like, fully there for you yet. Like, pause, take a second, think about these things. 

[00:30:19] Cara: Yes, because I'm going to give you a different lens, which is they can learn. We know they can learn, and experience teaches them incredible lessons. If you give yourself time, To make a choice, you may make the better choice in the moment that's going to put you in less danger, or that's going to create less, fewer downstream consequences for you.

I mean, Vanessa, Vanessa, you want to walk through the scenario you always give, which is just amazing.

[00:30:46] Vanessa: Oh, it's like we use the, in our talk, we use the example of like you're sitting around the dinner table and you're like, What would you do if someone offered you a vape and your kid would be like, well, I would say absolutely not.

And then I would text you and I would have you come pick me up. And then together we'd read the New York Times article about the dangers of vaping. And I would march into school the next morning and start the anti vaping school, uh, anti vaping club. Right. And you're like, yes, I'm winning at this. This is amazing.

And then two hours later, your best friend texts you and is like, uh, so I just saw your kid vaping on the street corner with five other kids. I just thought you'd want to know. And you're like, wait, what happened? I, they gave me all the right answers at the dinner table. How did that happen? And it can feel like, and Cara explained how they're like, you know.

In process, under construction. And it can feel like, why should we bother doing it? And the first, like, why bother having these conversations if they're just going to go ahead and do something dumb? But the fact is with every conversation we have with them, they do learn, they do build muscle memory, they do develop the language and the skills and the problem solving and the strategizing to address these situations.

It's just in the moment, in that moment. The prefrontal cortex is dominated by the limbic system and they might not necessarily do the right thing then, but it doesn't mean they will never do the right thing. It's just not yet as often the case.

[00:32:20] Hunter: So it's kind of like, it's more for us, really. It's like, expect mistakes.

Expect them to be, you know, cause sometimes I say that to like parents of little kids, like we, we tell, sometimes we think we're going to just tell little kids like to do something or, and then they're going to do it, you know? It's like, or they're going to like learn to put on their pants and then they're going to put on their pants forever and ever after that.

I remember thinking that, Oh good, now I'm done with this job. And, and it's just like, our, my, our expectations are way off. And so I kind of, what I'm kind of getting from you is that like, this is like about checking our expectations.

[00:32:53] Vanessa: Totally. Totally. And also, like, with little kids, when you ask them for the 20th time to hang up their coat when they come in the front door and they still don't do it, then something needs to ring a bell and say to you, Oh, well, maybe the hook isn't in the right place.

Maybe they can't reach it. Maybe it should be further in the house that they hang up their coat. Like, whatever expectations I have of this child are unrealistic for where they are in this moment. So, A, I need to, like you said, Hunter, adjust my expectations. And B, maybe I need to shift the, the setting a bit, a little bit, and the scenario so that they, I'm setting them up for success.

It's the same thing with teenagers. If you Set a curfew for a kid, and that kid is breaking curfew every single week. And every week you're like, I'm gonna ground you, and every week they come home and they're missing curfew. Then whatever process you have for your kid remembering to make curfew, the way you're communicating about curfew, the setting they're putting themselves in is not working, and you need to help them.

in conversation with them. Figure out, like, hey dude, why do you keep missing curfew? Like, I keep setting it, you keep missing it. Something's not working here. What can we come up with together to make this a more successful situation?

[00:34:15] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Well, I think that's a great just segue into, I mean, I'm thinking about you guys, like, you know, Cara, you're a pediatrician and Vanessa, you're a puberty educator.

You have a lot of children between you, I think you have six all between you, right? So what, I was wondering if you could share some of your personal most embarrassing parenting mistake.

[00:34:41] Cara: Cara, yours is an easy one. You want to go first? You mean the one about how I taught sex ed to my own kids? Yeah, that, that was an error.

I thought it would be really great to be the sex ed teacher because, you At school? You mean? Yeah. Yeah. At school. Yeah. It did not go over the way I thought it would. It did with all the friends. The friends were so into it. They were like, your mom is so cool. My kids did not feel that way. That would be a parenting error.

But it's a good reminder that, um, you know, when we bring our own baggage, when we bring our expertise, when we bring our day job into our homes. There are times where it's really effective and having that knowledge is really, really useful. And there are times when we forget to put ourselves in their shoes and we forget sort of the downstream consequences outside of ourselves.

Um, so that was a good example to me. I would absolutely do it again, by the way. A hundred percent I would do it again. because it was a great class and they learned a lot. How

[00:35:45] Vanessa: Hunter, where your daughter was while you were teaching sex ed?

[00:35:49] Cara: How old? Oh yeah, she was. I want details. She was in, so I taught fourth, fifth and sixth grade, um, growth education, sort of health and sex ed in her class.

The actual sex ed talk was in the sixth grade and, um, there were, 25 kids in the room and 24 of them were like on the edge of their seat, super engaged with the content. And one of them was under her desk. Can you guess which one?

Your poor dog.

[00:36:16] Vanessa: Yes. Oh. Oh. Uh, I would say my embarrassing, I don't have quite the like cinematic version of the most embarrassing moments.

I think my most embarrassing moments are when I completely lose it with my kids. Yes. Yes. over stuff that is just not that important. Um, and when I say when I lose it, I mean on a repeated basis, year over year, week over week. Um, so like perfect example, I think two weeks ago, uh, my 13 year old, we were like at homecoming and there were games and rides and all this stuff.

I was taking my 13 year old home with some friends and he called me and he's like, I can't find my backpack. I don't know where my backpack. And it's like, it could be anywhere. It's not where I put it. Someone took it. Just tell me if that sounds familiar to anyone here. It's. Obviously, it's not his fault.

It's somebody else's fault. Never in my house. So instead of, instead of being like, okay, well let's retrace your steps and where was the last place you remember, right? Like all the really constructive, calm. Instead I proceeded to like scream at my kid because this was the third time he lost his backpack.

Remember the kid who doesn't hang up their coat on the hook and you're like, how can we help that kid? So again, my kid. Third time forgot the backpack. I'm screaming at him and I'm like, I got it. You find your backpack. I don't care. You know, every terrible thing you should never say to your kid. And then I pause and he goes, Oh, wait.

I see it. It's right over there. So just enough time for you to just blow up. So he gets in the car with his friends with his backpack and it had been about five minutes cause they, I was like, I'm not driving to pick you up. You walk to where the car is, you know, everything, every awful thing you could say to a kid.

And he gets in the car and I'd had enough time to self reflect and I looked at him and I was like, I am so sorry. Why did I freak out like that? It wasn't such a big deal. I'm so sorry. And he was like, it's okay, mom. Like I shouldn't have, I should have known where my backpack was. And I was like, yeah, but you're the kid and I'm the adult and I should have helped you figure it out.

Um, and also I shouldn't have shouted at you in front of your friends, and I'm really sorry. So to anyone listening who lost it with a kid this week, just know that we have a podcast about this, and we wrote a book about this, and we speak at hundreds of places all over the country about this, and still, I screw up all the time.

And the difference? is between now and, you know, when I was a newbie and didn't know what I was doing, is that I now apologize for it. So don't lose hope, anyone listening, if you mess up because we are messing up on a daily basis and we are right there with you.

[00:39:15] Hunter: Yes. Yes. You, you are not alone. Do you listen?

Yes. The mistakes are inevitable. You, you have permission to be human and you have permission to be human, Vanessa and Scarra. We all, this is, this is like, but that's what your modeling is like that repair. And it sounds like he was like, all right, like I'm not super, super mad at you for freaking out. He was kind of more upset about his backpack than he was about mom.

Sounds like.

[00:39:45] Vanessa: Yes. And he was like, don't worry, I'll just make fun of you for it tomorrow when, when you mess up. I know, exactly. I was like, fair enough. I'm fair game after that reaction.

[00:39:59] Hunter: Well, Cara and Vanessa, thank you so much for, um, for writing this so awkward and sharing all this. ever so awkward knowledge with us and, and sharing, sharing what you know with us about tweens and teens.

I think it's incredibly helpful. We need these, I feel like we need these reminders like on a regular basis, like talk about these difficult things. Um, Their book is This is So Awkward, Modern Puberty Explained. It's out now. Uh, is there anything else we missed or final words you want to leave the listener with as we wrap up?

[00:40:41] Cara: I'll just say, we know this is hard, and we know this is scary and overwhelming, but it can also be fun, funny, and bonding, and, you know, for every negative, awkward, cringey experience you had growing up, there is a world in which we can flip it into something more positive. and more elevated than when we went through it.

So that's the whole idea here is if we can let go of the sighs and the winces, they can too. A hundred percent of us go through puberty. It should not Be so awkward.

[00:41:23] Hunter: These are sage words to leave us on indeed. Thank you so much, Cara. Thank you so much, Vanessa. Their book is This is So Awkward. Thank you so much for coming on the Mindful Parenting podcast.

[00:41:37] Vanessa: Thank you, Hunter. We loved it. Thanks, Hunter. Thanks for having us.

[00:41:49] Hunter: Hey, thank you so much for listening. I hope you appreciated this episode. I felt like it was so valuable to, it's always so valuable to talk about these things and, and they just make it so easy. I love the book. This is so awkward. Um, so if you liked this episode, Share it on your social media or just like tell one friend about the show today, someone who can use it and tell one friend and hopefully that will, will, will spread the knowledge that way.

Um, yeah, so this week, you know, I often like want to wish you good things at the ends of these episodes and these outros, right? And I do. I wish you good things, but I, um, I'm often wishing you, like, peace and ease and all those things, but this week I'm wishing you, like, Uncomfortable Conversations! Go forward!

You can do it! Uncomfortable Conversations! Woo! Um, and maybe if you know you're practicing, you have your meditation practice in the morning, breathing, you're practicing that system regulation stuff, it won't be so as hard. It may be still be awkward, but anyway, I'm wishing you awkward conversations. You can do it!

It's good for you, good for your kids, and um, yeah. And I'm wishing you also hugs and peace and ease and all the good stuff, too. So thank you so much for listening. I'm so glad you made it all the way here to the end. I'm super honored and I appreciate you for doing that. I will talk to you again really, really soon.

[00:43:31] Cara: I'd say definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better. And just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So, definitely

[00:43:46] Hunter: do it. I'd say definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you're connecting with them. Not feeling like you're yelling all the time or you're like, why isn't this working? I would say definitely do it. It's so, so worth it.

It'll change


[00:44:09] Hunter: No matter what age someone's child is, it's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's a great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this. You can continue in your old habits that aren't working or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective to shift.

Everything in your parenting.

Are you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting Membership. You will be joining Hundreds of members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

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[00:45:35] Hunter: Go to MindfulParentingCourse. com MindfulParentingCourse.

com to add your name to the waitlist so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment. I look forward to seeing you on the inside. MindfulParentingCourse.


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