Talking to Your Daughter About Periods and Puberty

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If you ask a young woman whether her mother spoke with her about puberty and preparation for starting her period, she might say, “No, I learned from my friends.” More then likely, when you ask her mom if she had “the talk” with her daughter, she will say “Yes.” Often, the reason is that unless there was something momentous about the occasion; it may not have been memorable enough for the daughter to recall.

The interesting thing about this, though, is that the disconnect between mom and daughter doesn’t have to happen.   One benefit of having a discussion about something that may be uncomfortable or just plain new is it sets up a pattern of confiding that will last a lifetime.   This is especially important during the teen years, when girls have a lot of concerns and questions about life and the stressors that she faces during adolescence.  And (for moms,) don’t you want to be the one your daughter comes to when she wants to talk about her problems or just needs a trusted perspective?

Here are some helpful tips to have a memorable and helpful talk with your daughter:

Set aside some special time to talk.

Make discussions more than just a few words squeezed into a busy schedule.  Set aside special time, like15 minutes after school or before dinner. that you can both use to sit down and chat.  I bet that if you do, at least twice a month, she will look forward to her mom-and-me time.  This  time can be as elaborately planned as you would like or as simple as sitting at the kitchen table with a beverage and your sole attention.   There is no doubt that your daughter will remember the time you spent together talking as she was growing up.   These talks can also transition to other topics of importance to her.

The puberty discussion should not be a onetime talk!

There are some really helpful tips on the Always.com site about discussing sensitive topics with your daughter.  One point Atlanta pediatrician Deborah Pollack, M.D. makes is the importance of having many small talks with your daughter.  To build on that, while your daughter may not comment or ask you questions at first, she may after she has time to ponder what you said.  Then, when you give her another opportunity to talk with you, she might ask away.

At what age do you begin?

Dr. Pollack recommends starting these discussions between the ages of 11 and 14. Is your daughter developing breast buds and does she have the start of pubic or arm pit hair?  Those are physical indicators that she is going through puberty and her body is preparing for her to get her period.  Discussion about these changes should begin early enough so your daughter is prepared.  For some girls, this may be as young as 9 years of age.

How do I start?

One fun way to open the discussion is to share your what happened during your talk with your mother.  Perhaps it will make you both laugh and then to relax.  My daughter still laughs over the book I used and how I emphasized the importance of using the correct anatomical terminology when talking body parts (remember, I am a nurse.)   She ended up showing the book to her friends and became the primary source of info.  Glad I could educate the neighborhood kids too, even though I didn’t know it at the time!

What to say?

You don’t have to be a nurse or a health care expert to share the basics.  Also, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”  You can look up the answers and  then will be able to further the dialogue with the information.  Actually, this follow-up helps build the foundation of trust with your daughter.  She knows she can count on you.  While we do that when our daughters are younger, the older they get the more we should stay steady and true to our words – they notice and remember. It becomes as important as the answer to any question.

Good luck with starting the dialogue.  If you have already, any tips you want to offer others who are just getting started?

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