No matter how old your daughter is, when you first attempt to talk to her about puberty
, all you're going to be able to think about is the time — not so long ago — when you held her in your arms when she was an infant. Time whizzes by quickly in parenthood, and never is that more clear than when your daughter looks up at you with questioning eyes and asks you if you think she is getting "boobies."
Try to avoid it all you like, but sooner or later, you will need to talk to your daughter about the changes going on in her body — for her sake as well as your own. And the more open and honest you can be with her right now, the more open and honest she will be with you when she comes to you with questions about sex and peer pressure and all of that scary stuff. Here's how to get the conversation rolling.
Start early. Most girls get their first period when they're 12 or 13 years old, while some get it as early as age 9 or as late as age 16. But one thing I learned this year is that young girls often start talking about getting their period well before they will actually get it. And if you want to make sure they are talking to you — and not their little friends — about it, you need to start that conversation.
Put your own issues aside. I was raised in a home where we never, ever talked about puberty or bodily changes, or anything of the like. Top that off with 12 years of Catholic school education during which I was taught that it is a sin to even look at yourself in the mirror and you might get a glimpse of the shock that I felt the first time my eldest asked me to check out her "boobies" and see if I thought they were developing on target. But those are my issues, not hers — and I'd like to keep it that way. I love that my daughters are comfortable with their bodies and are not embarrassed when asking me questions about them. So while my inner monologue may squirm a little when my daughter asks me whether or not her father and I have ever had sex, I take a deep breath and answer the question honestly ("yes, twice.")
Keep it simple. Your daughter doesn't need to know all of the technical and medical details about puberty right away. Start the conversation with simple facts about the changes that she will go through in the next few years. Answer her questions as honestly and as simply as possible.
Offer reassurance. When I was a kid, I can clearly remember being terrified that I would be unprepared for the first time my period came. That it could come anytime and anywhere scared the living daylights out of me, and I probably spent the better part of my formative years wearing dark colors and hanging out within walking distance of a drug store, "just in case." Reassure your daughter that although you can't predict when her period will actually come, you can be prepared by stocking up with pads and panty liners and other supplies at home.
So this is all well and good for daughters, but what about sons? Rest assured, I am working on that very post right now. But as the mom of two daughters, I felt it was easier to tackle this one first. I'm doing a little more research on puberty and boys and will have that post up soon. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your own tips for talking to girls — and boys — about puberty.