Your little girl is growing up and starting to go through some physical and emotional changes but you haven’t talked to her about puberty yet. You are embarrassed or you don’t know how to open up a discussion with her about this. Or maybe you are thinking she is too young to have “the talk.” Although teens have questions about what is going on with their body, most don’t receive any education on this before they have their first menstrual period.
To help your daughter feel less confused and more in control of what is going on with her body, you should talk to her before this occurs. Although traditionally this talk was the mother’s responsibility, more and more fathers have taken this on because of their changing role in society.
It’s important to note that girls can start puberty as early as eight, so it is important to have the talk early. Below are some ideas to help you discuss this with your daughter
Start Early. To make this easier on both your daughter and you, you can start talking to her early in more general terms. It is OK to talk in general terms and if she asks about why you are shaving your legs there is nothing wrong with telling her that when she starts to grow up that hair will grow on her legs too.
Specifics. As she gets older and before she starts menstruating you should get more specific about what to expect. You might ask her if her friends are wearing bras yet or you could tell her what it was like for you going through puberty. This will take the spot light off of her and help her feel more comfortable talking about it. Be sure to tell her what to expect when she gets her first period and what she should do when she gets it. She should also be told how women get pregnant so there is no confusion. Remember you won’t be able to cover everything in one talk. Relax, let the discussion come up naturally when the two of you are alone together
Answer Questions Open and Honestly. You don’t need to go into great detail if your daughter has a question for you. For example, if your first grader finds your box of tampons and asks you about them you do not need to go into much more detail than telling her that you use them each month when you are menstruating. Chances are she won’t ask you anymore. If and when you have the talk answer her questions as simply as possible. If she has more questions about your answer then give more answers.
Take Time to Understand. Don’t assume what your daughter is asking or brush over it too quickly. Take time to listen to her questions and concerns and try to take the time to answer each one. Assure her that she can come to you anytime to ask you whatever. Don’t act surprised if she asks you something you aren’t prepared for. Doing so will only make her be ashamed and not come to you in the future.
Use Your Own Experience. If you use your own experience and share it with her it will help her feel like this is no big deal. She will come to realize that every young girl goes through this and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Use your own experience to spark conversations between the two of you.
Be Practical. What you daughter will probably appreciate more than anything is helping her know how to handle things. Give her some advice on what to do when she starts menstruating. Tell her how it might be a good idea to carry a pad with her when she goes to school so if she starts menstruating when she is there she will have something. Assure her that it is perfectly alright to go to the nurse when she gets it. Talk to her about what is available to use out there, tell her what she might feel and tell her that this is normal.
“I Don’t Know” is OK! If you don’t know the answer to a question your daughter has, it’s all right to tell her this. Then tell her you will look it up and get back to her. She will respect you much more and trust you more if you do this rather than making up an answer or telling her a half truth.
Don’t Just Hand Her a Book or Video. Although it is perfectly all right to use one of these as a stepping off point for a conversation, do not just give her a book or video without following up with a conversation. She will most likely have questions and by just handing her a book or video you are giving the wrong message. You are saying this is something you need to know but we don’t talk about these things. Not a good message to send her.
Reassure Her. Reassure her that all of this is a normal part of growing up and that every woman goes through this. Also assure her that it is alright to come to you at any time with any questions.
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