Talking to your tween about puberty...

Your daughter is young – perhaps just a recent tween.  But you know it’s coming – puberty; periods, boobs, boys, pimples, moods and more.  Big changes are on the horizon and how we parent through them will help shape our daughter’s self-esteem, her relationships with others and her relationship with her own body.  No pressure. 

Many of us can remember a pretty relaxed approach to parenting from our own parents. They loved us, but they didn’t feel obligated to entertain us or to manage our time or our social lives.  We played outside till long after dark, planned our own playdates with the kids on our block and knew our parents didn’t want to hear it if we were bored.  We were parented with a hands-off approach that forced us to solve our own problems and make our own fun, and most of us probably can admit we are better for it (even as we micro manage every waking minute of our own kids’ lives.)  

But many of us remember a little less fondly the passivity of our own parents when it came to puberty; covertly leaving a copy of Where Did I Come From by our beds and being fine with the fact that we learned the rest from Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret and the misinformation of our friends.  For many women who grew up in the 80s, our first and last conversation with our mothers about periods was the day we got it.  

We have our own daughters now and we didn’t just rewrite the book on parenting, we shred the last one and started over with a whole new storyline. We call their teachers when they’re fighting with a friend and sign them up for coding and chess.  We plan their playdates and activities and then still think we need to play with them when they have “downtime.”  For better or worse we are Involved.  And yet - many of us may still be trying to figure out the chapter on puberty for our own girls.   

We want to be a resource for them. We want to demystify things for them. We want them to be empowered rather than embarrassed.  We want them to know they can talk to us and they can count on us for answers.   

But when do you start? How do you start? How do you make it not so awkward?   

Here, we provide some tips and conversation starters to open the lines of communication with your daughter: 

  • Never balk at a question.  Answer whatever she asks honestly and casually.  If you suggest it makes you feel weird or awkward, you’ve signaled to her that it might be off limits.  She may ask about the male anatomy, or sex, or something else you’re not ready to talk about, or you think she’s not ready to hear about.  But she’s asking.  And if you want her to keep asking - if you want to know what she’s thinking about, and you want to be the resource she turns to -  then you need to provide the answers she’s looking for in a comfortable space. 

     

  • It’s OK to laugh.  Her questions may be funny and it’s ok to laugh (See our just wondering series for some gems our own daughters came up with).  Just make sure she’s in on the joke rather than feeling like your laughing at her.  If she knows she can giggle at things that seem embarrassing, she knows these conversations with you can be fun and easy. 

     

  • Even if she’s not talking about it, she’s probably thinking about it. While there’s no right age, and you know your daughter best, you should know that by a certain age, her friends are talking about periods, puberty (and even sex) even if she’s not telling you about it.  That can be as early as 4th or 5th grade, or later for some.  At some point it’s important to break the ice with her. If not, she may start to think there are certain topics you are avoiding with her and so she too will avoid them with you.  

     

  • Not sure what to say? Keep it casual.  No need to have a serious sit-down Puberty with a capital P conversation.  Instead, try to normalize uncomfortable topics by talking about them in the normal course of conversation.  Start early and set the tone. Once she knows no topic is off-limits, she’ll be more apt to come to you.  And if you’re really stuck on how to begin, here are a few conversation starter ideas:

     

    • Use something you see on TV or in a book as a jumping off point – comment on a feminine hygiene product commercial or a razor ad in a magazine.  

    • Order your feminine hygiene products from Ashlyn Lee when she’s in the room.  Mention to her which products you are buying and why. 

    • Have your pads and tampons out in the open. Encourage her to open them and examine them. Talk about how they work and what they do. 

    • Talk about when you were her age – crushes, getting breasts, your first-time shaving - Kids love hearing about when their parents were young and knowing that you went through the very same things will put her at ease. 

    • Tell her about one of your embarrassing period accidents (we’ve all had them!) 

    • Mention casually that you have your period, or that you have cramps.   

    • Talk to your husband in her presence about your period – that you think you are getting it, or that you can’t forget to pack your products for your trip. 

    • Buy her a bra before she needs one.  She’ll be a lot less embarrassed before she starts developing and she’ll have it when she needs it. (We recommend Lycra sports bras, they fit well and they hide her breast bumps when they come.)

       

  • Make it a family affair. Our husbands are out buying our tampons and pads but for some reason aren’t supposed to know that their daughters are getting their periods? Have conversations in the presence of Dad, so she knows this is not a secret from him. It’s far easier to bring him into the conversation before she gets her period.  She may want her privacy down the line. But she’ll know from those early conversations that she doesn’t need to be embarrassed around him. 

     

  • This shouldn’t be a one-time conversation. This is an ongoing conversation - and you hope, especially as she gets older- a 2-way conversation that evolves as she does.  

     

  • Finally – Prepare her! Not just with information but with products.  Our You Got This, starter kit is a perfect way to make sure she has everything she needs for her first period and comes with a travel pouch so she can keep some with her when she’s on the go.

Before she’s in the throes of puberty, your daughter will be more curious than embarrassed. Take advantage of this time to teach her she can come to you, and that no subject is off-limits.  It doesn’t mean she won’t pull away at times or seek more privacy as she gets older. But she’ll always know she can talk to you.