Puberty. This is one of those BIG parenting conversations. We don’t want to blow it, but we also kind of dread the thought of it. Partly because it can be uncomfortable. But mostly because we all feel a little unsure about exactly how and when to talk about puberty with our tween daughters.
Our girls go through such massive changes with their bodies as puberty hits. It can rock their worlds (and ours).
Plus, because they’re hormones are all out of whack, it can make it that much harder to try to talk with them. They either freak out at the very idea of talking about it with you, burst into tears or they just refuse to talk at all.
Some really don’t want to deal with the idea of growing up, while others are just grossed out or scared.
But, whether they like it or not, it’s important to discuss the following issues with our girls, as they wander through this new terrain.
It can be awkward and confusing during this season of rapid growth spurts, body development and periods. They need our support and encouragement now more than ever, so they can have a better understanding of what they are experiencing and how to manage it all.
Most importantly, we can try to help them feel secure in their own skin during a time when insecurity can be at an all-time high.
So, exactly when do you start talking to your daughters about puberty?
And not only that, what do you say?
Overall, as far as the right age, sometimes they’ll initiate the conversations earlier than you expect. They might see an ad for feminine products on TV and wonder what that is all about. Or these days, girls as young as eight are beginning to develop. You may find your daughter coming home one day and announcing that so and so in her class had on a cute little pink trainer bra and when are you going to go buy her one.
However, if these opportunities don’t naturally present themselves, your daughter will at least start to gain an awareness that things are changing around eight or nine. So, that is a great time to at begin introducing her to what puberty entails and tell her about periods.
Also, keep in mind that most public schools have a health class in 5th grade where this will all be covered, but in most cases these days that can be pretty late. Plus, you probably want to be the first one to fill her in on these life changes. It not only establishes you as the primary source for information, but it builds trust and strengthens your relationship.
You don’t need to make it some in-depth birds and bees talk and it definitely doesn’t require visuals or a power point.
Keep it super simple, just the basics at this point.
- Let her know what the first signs of puberty will look like (hair growth, breast development, body odor)
- Talk to her about basic hygiene issues that come with puberty (deodorant, more frequent showers, etc)
- Explain to her what a period is and when she is likely to get hers (typically between 10-13)
- Let her know as the time gets closer you’ll make sure she has a starter period kit for school and home
This first puberty talk is really the easy one.
What comes next can be much harder.
Once puberty begins in full, your daughter suddenly has this whole new more grown-up body and she’s feeling emotions and even sexual feelings that are unfamiliar. This is when things get a little harder.
But don’t shy away from keeping an open dialogue going with your tween or teen daughter during this time, even if it feels uncomfortable.
If you’re not sure what you should be talking about, here are the often overlooked parts of puberty that we need to cover with our tween daughters.
Girls going through puberty can experience rapid changes in their body or they can be anxiously waiting for any changes to come.
Whether it’s a burst of development or a lag in any growth, either can cause insecurity, confusion, and frustration. It’s important to talk to your daughter about what she may be experiencing, and explain how nature plays a big part in when puberty hits and how fast her body develops.
It can be so hard for the girls who have a sudden onset of changes in their body and equally hard for those who don’t.
Encourage your daughter by reminding her that at some point everyone will go through puberty and help her to be accepting of her own body and how it operates. Empower her with identifying all the positive aspects of who she is and help her understand that she is not alone.
Girls going through puberty will be self-conscious and want to be private about their body’s development or lack thereof.
Talk to your daughter about any personal issues she may be experiencing with puberty and discuss how a woman’s body is unique and every single one is different from the other.
Respect her privacy, but remind her you are always here to talk with her about anything she is going through.
Tell her about your own experience with puberty and how uncomfortable you were at her age. Encourage her to ask you any questions about this process and guide her in pursuing options for hygiene and self-care. Take her shopping for clothes that make her feel comfortable and confident with her figure.
Girls going through puberty will discover the power of hormones and feel out of control.
She might get irritated at everything and sad about anything and think she is going crazy. She might forget things, seem inattentive, and be exhausted much of the time.
Hormones play a big part during these years of rampant development and it’s important to explain this critical piece of puberty to your daughter at the start.
She needs to understand she is not losing her mind and that many of the strong emotions she’s experiencing are fueled by these powerful hormones. There will be fluctuations according to her cycle, so talk with your daughter about ways to manage her mood swings.
Girls going through puberty need to know they are beautiful in their growing bodies and womanhood is to be celebrated.
There are many challenges that come with puberty and all the changes a girl’s body goes through physically. There are also huge shifts in their cognitive and emotional development that go right along with that. It’s a difficult road to take toward becoming a woman, mood swings and all, but it’s also an incredible one too.
This is the best time to celebrate being a woman with your girl! Embrace all the noble things women do and congratulate her for joining the greatest club on earth! Help her embrace the sisterhood and point out all the incredible benefits there are to being a woman. In time, she’ll begin to believe the exhausting and maddening process of puberty is all worth it.
This post was contributed by Christine Carter who writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. Her work is published on several various online publications as well. She is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.”
Raising tweens and teens isn’t easy, here are some posts to help with those other tough topics: