“Just wait until they’re teenagers” is likely the most frustrating phrase a parent will hear as their kids pass through infancy, toddlerhood, and beyond. Moms in particular will cringe when we remember ourselves as teen girls, and what we have to look forward to the second time around the rollercoaster phase of puberty… this time with our own daughters. As a mom of four, including two girls, I have plenty of insider knowledge to share on topics like planning for unpredictable mood swings or the best ways to explain that body odour is natural and can be controlled with the right deodorant.
Recently, I had the opportunity to co-host a mother-daughter event on behalf of P&G and BeingGirl.com where I spoke with a vibrant group of 20 moms and uncovered the top three challenges they face when it comes to their kids and puberty.
Let’s be honest, what kid really wants Mom or Dad to sit her down for “the talk”? It’s too formal and unnatural for children to feel comfortable to open up or be receptive to what you have to say. So why not break “the talk” out into several conversations rather than one sit-down session? This will give your kids time to digest what you’ve discussed and to think of additional questions they may want to ask you later. I always find car rides a good time to chat. After all, you have a receptive audience, and you’re both looking straight ahead, instead of uncomfortably into each other’s eyes.
Another tip this group of moms shared is to find natural ways to introduce the topic of puberty, such as referencing a book they’ve been reading or a movie they’re interested in. Just think of the possibilities for conversations you could have after watching the hit film, My Girl, together, or not quickly turning the channel when a feminine product ad comes on TV, but instead watching it and asking questions about it after.
Most importantly, though, start the conversation early. It’s vital to talk about puberty before it happens so that when the time comes, your kids will better understand the changes they’re experiencing and what else to expect. Not to mention that you can be sure they get accurate information from you before they start talking with their friends.
We all know kids talk with one another, but unfortunately there are a lot of misconceptions about puberty being shared. This is why it’s important to talk about puberty with your kids before it happens. The first step is to educate yourself before you talk to your kids. You’ll want to be able to clearly explain what is involved with menstruation, including what signs to expect before her first period arrives, what is normal, and what is not normal. It’s also important to talk about the changes both boys and girls experience during puberty—don’t just limit it to what your daughter should expect. It’s important for girls to know what boys at this age are going through and vice versa, and to know they’re not alone.
Do a reality check and start the conversation by asking your kids what they already know about puberty. Many girls still think you cannot go swimming while you have your period, or that random bears will attack them, even in an urban centre!
Many parents flounder when their daughter transitions into a young woman. While the responsibility often lies with Mom to deal with all things puberty-related, it’s just as important for dads and even brothers to understand what these young girls are experiencing. Dads also need to feel comfortable talking openly with their daughters, and have feminine care products available as he might be the only parent around when her period happens, particularly for the first time.
Children are intuitive, so the more confident you can be when talking about periods, bodily changes and sexuality; the more confident your kids will feel about facing puberty too. Fortunately, there are many online resources available for parents who are looking for advice on having these important discussions with their daughters. With some preparation and help, it doesn’t have to be daunting for you or your daughter to feel better prepared for the years ahead.