Columnist

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 6–8 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Since we begin virtual parent/youth puberty classes this week, I thought it might brighten your day to read a few of the questions asked in the What’s Up as You Grow Up? Parent/Youth classes I began in 1984.

Q. Can you give me one good reason why my dad had to be with me? This is gross.

12 year old

Mary Jo’s Response: I have a very good reason. One of my goals for the class is connection between young people and their parents. I want you to spend time with your dad. I want you to communicate with him and hear about his experiences growing up. I want him to listen to your thoughts. I want you both to grow in respect for each other. I hope you enjoy the class.

Q. I do not ever want to be a mother, so what is the sense of me having a period?

12 year old

Mary Jo’s Response: Making a decision about becoming a parent is big. Most people wait to make those kinds of adult decisions when they’re older. You don’t need to be a parent. Parenting is an important job and takes commitment and energy. I believe people who become parents should want to raise children.

One of the nicest things about growing up is our ability to change. We grow physically, in our bodies, and emotionally, in our spirits and personalities. We don’t become different people, but we do change. Some of us know our future plans when we’re young; you may be one of those people.

I knew I wanted to be a nurse when I was 10, and I became a registered nurse. I never could have imagined the other wonderful things I’ve been blessed to do in my life, though. Sometimes our plans change as we mature. What do you think about waiting to see how you feel about parenting until you’re older?

You are a person with a uterus. A uterus changes when bodies’ mature. Periods are part of a healthy menstrual cycle. You’re not alone in wishing periods away. I often say it’s a shame we can’t know when a person wants to have a child. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to program our bodies to do what we want? For example, a person may want to be pregnant at age 27. Periods could begin then.

One important part of puberty is growing to understand and appreciate ourselves.

You are worthy and important.

The unpleasant things about growing up are far fewer than the wonderful things. In class we’ll talk about things to look forward to, like driving and graduating high school and moving on as an adult. Be patient. You’ll get there. And, if your period is painful or bothers you, talk with your mom. She can schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to make sure you’re healthy.

Q. I like someone, but when I start to talk with him I get all sweaty and feel weird like I’m going to throw up. Then I say something stupid. Is this love? I don’t even think he knows I’m alive.

12 year old

Mary Jo’s Response: Those sound like icky feelings. I think they’re a sign of anxiety, not love. Love is tough to describe and can be different for each person, but what I sense you’re feeling is the typical reactions of a person who is new to the idea of a relationship.

Relationships are important parts of our social life. Most people want them, especially as they grow older and seek a companion or partner.

You already have many relationships. Your first relationships were with your parents and grandparents and immediate family members, but your circle of relationships grew to include friends, teachers, faith leaders, your doctor and dentist and coaches. There are so many people in your life with whom you can practice communication.

Learning how to communicate within these safe connections is a good way to figure out how to communicate with someone you’re crushing on.

Take come deep breaths before you see this person. Remind yourself that you are worthy. Just saying “hi” and starting a conversation may sound scary, but it’s a first step. It’s great to like someone. It’s also normal to feel anxious. Talk with your mom or dad. I’m sure they’ll tell you they felt just like you do now when they were your age. Good luck.

Q.Can I get pregnant by thinking about someone I like a whole lot?

Mary Jo’s Response: Absolutely not. The kind of sex where an egg (ova) and sperm connect starts a pregnancy. Think all you want. There’s no link between a person’s thoughts and a person’s uterus or ovaries. You’re safe.

Note: The post class evaluation from the 12-year-old in question No. 1: Having my dad with me wasn’t horrible. He knew a lot more than I thought.

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email podmj@healthyteens.com.

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