The other day I was at the bookstore with my daughter. We happened upon The Care and Keeping of You from the American Girl Library. She picked it up and asked me what it was about.
I said, “Remember that funny-sounding word we laughed about the other day that means your body changes as you grow up?” She said she couldn’t remember the word, so I paused for a dramatic reading of the word. . .
She let out a laugh and agreed that it was a funny, silly-sounding word. I told her we could pick up the book and start looking at it soon.
Recently during a well-check appointment, our doctor gave us some papers and mentioned that while my daughter was still single digits, puberty could be around the corner. It can start as young as eight years old for some girls. I was happy she brought it up. I was also relieved that my daughter and I had already started talking, in a small way, about puberty.
I am trying to be aware and mindful of the upcoming stages of parenting I’m in for.
So if it’s cell phone use, discipline tips, or puberty talks, I like to chat with friends a few years ahead and ask them what works well or what didn’t. I want to keep the lines of communication open with my daughters and not make it a weird or scary thing. Because let’s face it: getting your first period can be a bit of a shock, and it would be nice to not think you were dying.
Here are a few ways I’ve been preparing for puberty with my daughters:
Talk Early, Talk Often
The phrase “Talk Early, Talk Often” is often associated with keeping kids from drinking and using drugs. I think it can also apply to puberty. Many of us may not have grown up in homes where talking about puberty or sex was comfortable or normal.
My goal is to have lots of little talks, instead of one big, brain breaking talk that frightens my children. Kristen Howerton, a blogger I follow, has written how she tries to keep lines of communication open about sex, puberty, and body safety. She also reminds herself every year around Labor Day to do a check-in with her kids.
Learning about period options
Things have come a long way in the period department since Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. There are the miracle period underwear and all sorts of reusable cups; tampons and pads and probably something I haven’t learned about. I’ve seen subscription services that mail you a pretty box and make getting your period almost as exciting as a Birchbox or Ipsy subscription. Almost. While I’m not planning on throwing my girls a “Period Party,” I do hope that we can be transparent about her needs and find period management supplies that work best for her and her changing body. And maybe share some chocolate.
Teaching Correct Medical Information
One friend mentioned giving her daughter correct information was critical in their home. She talked to her daughter about what her body was doing before it came time for the school maturation clinic. Her daughter felt better prepared, and there were no surprises. Another friend told of how as a 12-year-old, she thought she might be getting breast cancer as her breast buds were developing. Correct information from a parent could have saved that girl so much worry and confusion. I’m looking ahead of time to find books and websites that provide information in a way that can hopefully be well received while staying open to clearing up confusion from things heard at school or from friends.
Promoting a Healthy Body Image
At the bookstore, we talked about how your body changes, and you don’t get to pick when it changes. As part of our continuing conversations, I want to emphasize and show from my actions that bodies are awesome.
One of my favorite Instagram accounts, Beauty Redefined, does body image research. They discuss ways to empower women and girls about their bodies. I’m storing their word gems for current and later use. One of their sayings is, “My body is an instrument, not an ornament.” I’ve been working with my daughter about what that can mean for her. We try to focus on what her body can do and not on her appearance. I’m sure this won’t give her a lifetime free of judging her own body, but hopefully it can remind her how incredible her body is, puberty being no exception.