Most experts suggest that parents begin short and casual discussions about the body changes that occur in puberty with their children by the age of seven or eight. Offering the child reading materials about puberty can impart information to the young person without the awkwardness that may characterize the parent-child conversations. Parents can then offer their children opportunities to ask questions or to discuss any aspects of puberty and sexuality that may arise from their reading.
It is also a good idea for parents to talk to their children about proper hygiene at the onset and during puberty. While good hygiene is important for everyone at any age, it can require greater care at the onset of puberty. Hormones produced by the maturing body bring about physical changes that require greater attention when it comes to hygiene. For a young girl or boy, this means taking more time to clean the body, especially the sexual organs, to treat acne, use mouthwash for bad breath, and deodorant for stronger body odor.
When a boy or girl begins to go through puberty, the body produces more perspiration because sweat glands, some of which are located near the underarms, become more active. More perspiration means a different type of body odor, one that is stronger and similar to an adult's. Daily bathing and showering are enough to control body odor, along with deodorants and antiperspirants.
Boys should be instructed to wash their genitals every day. This includes washing the penis, the scrotum that holds the testicles, the anus, and pubic hair with water and mild soap. Uncircumcised boys need to be instructed that the foreskin should be pulled down daily to expose the tip of the penis, which should then be washed with mild soap and water.
In girls, it is perfectly natural to have a slight sweet smell from the vagina that is inoffensive. A strong, foul odor indicates a possible infection. With treatment, the infection goes away and so does the strong odor. Vaginal discharge is a necessary part of the body's regular functioning. Normal discharge, usually clear to white, is part of the body's self-cleaning process. As discharge leaves the body, it takes bacteria with it, which helps prevent vaginal infections. Parents should stress that girls clean the vaginal area with a mild soap and water
SOURCE: Child Development Institute. http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com. 2005.