I am a blogger who is also one of the health experts on beinggirl.com, so I answer questions from hundreds of girls who write to us every month. It has been an eye opening experience that has helped me understand the concerns that many teen girls have today.
One of the things that I have learned from the questions asked, is that teens would rather ask a stranger a personal question about their life or health than their mother. What can be done to make the dialogue more open between teens and their mothers?
As a health educator, I tell moms: start talking early, talk often and listen a lot.
Remember your first period and your first crush?
There are many questions that I answer as a women’s health expert that a mom could also answer. After all, mom has experienced periods and she has had crushes, so I have no doubt that any mom could be the resident expert for her daughter. How to begin?
1. Start Now
The best age to begin a more formal communication time with your daughter is when she is about eight. Puberty usually begins some time between age 8 and 13 in girls. Each of us is a little different, so everyone starts and goes through puberty on her body’s own schedule. While the average age, in the US, for periods commencing is about 12.5 years, there are many changes a girl experiences that cause some angst before their period actually arrives. Some of this angst is because they don’t have the facts or support. Also to note, some girls may not get their period until they are 16 years old and some may start as early as 9 years old.
2. Get the facts
Have references to help you. None of us are women’s health encyclopedias; so don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. Always.com is a great place to begin learning about the facts of life. Also, you may want to discuss your questions with your own OB/GYN or check out sites like kidshealth.org or the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology site. All have excellent information that will be invaluable as you speak with your daughter.
3. Schedule time
Set up some time with your daughter, when it is just you two and there will be little to no interruptions. This could be a lunch out, time in the house when no one else is around or just before bedtime when you go in to say good night. You know your schedule, so find the time when it won’t be a rushed moment, but quality time. It doesn’t have to happen weekly. For you, monthly may be more than enough or even every few months. Schedule the time on your calendar. It is amazing how the time gets away when we all have so much to do.
4. Share a laugh
Let her know that you know she is going through changes and you are there for her. I always recommend using your own experiences. It helps her understand that you get what she is going through. Find humorous or embarrassing moments to share with her. A good laugh together goes a long way in helping you bond. And, she will like you better. I am not recommending that you become her friend; just that you show a connection to what she believes is her unique experience and your genuine caring.
5. You don’t know everything, and that is expected
It is ok to admit that you don’t know. However you will want to add that you will find out. Then keep your word and follow-up.
6. Listen, listen and listen more.
The best way to truly understand the question or issue is to listen to the words, the emotion behind the words and her body language. Is she sitting scrunched up with arms wrapped around her or is she beginning to lean into you as you talk. The more you talk, the more relaxed you will both be.
Good luck and have fun getting to know your daughter better. After a while, you will become her resident trusted expert.