How to Discuss Puberty with Your Daughter
Girls Coming of Age
Some parents dread, “the talk.” However, talking to your daughter about puberty can be reframed from drudgery to a rite of passage. You have a unique opportunity to teach, celebrate and honor your daughter’s growth.
She will be embarking on a phenomenal biological experience of being physically transformed from a girl to a woman. This is not a drudgery but a joyful, celebrated transition.
Our culture has a skewed view of puberty, periods, and female development. Our daughters need their mothers, aunts, grandmothers, older sisters, teachers, and their female elders to acknowledge and embrace this remarkable transition into womanhood.
This is how to discuss puberty with your daughter with confidence and reverence.
What Age to Have the Talk With Your Daughter
According to the National Women's Health Network, early puberty continues to be the trend for girls.
The timing of puberty varies because it is influenced by environmental factors, race, nutrition, and cues that are not entirely known. The onset of puberty ranges from age 8 to 13. Puberty usually takes 1 to 6 years to complete.
For girls puberty includes
- Development of breasts
- Growth of pubic hair
- First Menstruation
How Do I Talk To My Daughter About Puberty?
Talking to your daughter about puberty is not a one-time event. There are special moments between mothers and daughters when changes of the female body can be introduced in kid friendly ways.
A 4-year-old girl who finds the maxi pads and sticks them around the house provides an open door to interject what maxi pads are used for. “Oh, you found mommy’s pads. I used those once a month and someday you will get to use them just like mommy does.”
A 6-year-old girl watching TV may ask what the tampon commercial was all about. This provides an opportunity for you to tell her. “Those are called tampons. Older girls and women used them during their period or menstrual cycle. It helps keep them clean and fresh.”
This little moments will collectively build a foundation for when you do have a more thorough discussion about puberty.
Ask Her To Notice The Differnece Between Girls and Teenage Girls
Talking To Your Daughter About Her Breasts Development
When you are ready to sit your daughter here are some suggestions.
- Find a time and place where both of you will not be interrupted. Make sure her brother’s are not around, because she may be a little embarrassed.
- Make sure you are not telling her when you just had a fight or you two are disconnected because of something else.
- Begin the conversation as naturally as you would discuss homework or other important topics.
- “Maggie, you are growing up so fast! Mommy is so proud of you. I cannot believe you are now 8 years old. Soon you are going to be a teenager and before you know it you will be driving. So many amazing things are going to continue to happen for you. You might get your own cell phone one day.”
- Tell her more than the changes in her body that are going to be wonderful for her. Tell her some positives that are going to happen like driving or getting a cell phone.
- “Another amazing thing going to happen is your body is going to change. You know Victorious and Selena Gomez, right? How do you know they are a teenager and not a little girl anymore?”
- Talk about teenagers she looks up too, or watches them on TV. It could also be a cousin or an older sister. Ask her to describe why they look like teenagers and not little girls.
- “Yes, they are taller, they wear pretty clothes and fancy shoes, they may even be wearing makeup.” If your daughter is modest, you might need to help her identify the physical changes.
- “Also, you may have noticed they have breasts like mommy has breasts. All girls grow from a baby, to a toddler, to a little girl, into a teenager and then into a woman. You have already changed from a baby, to a toddler, to a little girl and soon you will grow into a teenager like Victorious and Selena Gomez. You to will be growing breasts too.”
- “It does not hurt, it does not happen overnight. Just like you grow bigger and taller, your breasts will begin to grow. Breasts are so important because they help mommies feed their babies. Women need their breasts to help nurture their babies, like I nurtured you when you were a baby.”
- “Having breasts does not mean you will have a baby. They are there and ready for when you do have a baby.”
What is Puberty? Puberty in Girls
Recomended Books For Talking to Girls about Their Menstration
Great book for girls learning about their changing bodies.
A Gift For Your Daughter's First Period
How Do I Talk To My Daughter About Her Period
- You can ask your daughter leading questions to see what she already knows.
- “So, can you tell mommy, where babies come from?”
- Most girls will point or say their stomach.
- “Good job, yes babies develop in our abdomen. It sure does look like they grow in our stomachs, but actually they have a separate room to grow in different from where our food goes. Just like you, me, daddy and your brother live in this house, we all have our own separate rooms to sleep in.”
- “The baby’s separate room is called the uterus. The uterus is like a special home, it takes care of the baby as she grows and develops in the mommy’s abdomen. In the uterus the baby will be fed and loved so she can grow.”
- “Every month the uterus get’s ready for the baby. You know how we clean up the house when we are going to have guests over and make special dinners. Well, the uterus kind of does that too. It get’s ready for the baby. It begins to make something like a special blanket for the baby with the necessary fluids the baby will need to grow.”
- “If there is no baby to grow in the uterus that month, the uterus will let go of this special blanket it made. This letting go is called a period or also known as a menstrual cycle.”
- “The next month the uterus will again make a special blanket for the baby, and let it go if the baby does not come. It is important when the baby does come that the blanket is fresh and new to help the baby develop and grow. That is why the uterus makes the blanket and then lets it go each month.”
- “So where does the blanket go when the uterus sheds the fluids that were not needed each month because there was no baby?”
- “The special fluids come out of the woman’s body. She does not need it in her. You know you have a special spot for your pee and poop to come out of. Well, you also have a special spot for your period or menstrual cycle to come out. It is called a vagina.”
- “The vagina is very special and only girls have it. Boys do not have one. It is made especially to make babies.”
- “When girls develop to become a teenager their body will do this amazing thing to get ready for a baby and then letting go of the blanket or fluids if the baby does not come. It happens to all teenage girls who are healthy like Taylor Swift. It will happen to you someday too.”
- “It does not hurt. You might feel some discomfort like a muscle cramp, but there is medicine you can take to help ease the cramping if you feel it.”
- “The blanket or fluids that come out, need to be collected so they do not run down your leg, because that would get messy. So, woman, like Taylor Swift or your Aunt Jenny use these products called pads and tampons.”
- You can have them nearby to show her.
- “We put them in our panties like this.” Show her how to put it in your underwear.
- “This pad or tampon collects the fluids or blanket. I just change it every time I go to the bathroom and put a new one in.”
- “Remember the uterus prepares the room one time a month and sheds the special blanket one time a month if the baby does not come. So you only need to do this for about 5 days during the month.”
- You can show her on a calendar how you count the days and prepare for your period. You can even show her how to download an app on her phone or iPod.
- “The fluid is actually blood. So the color will look red, sometimes pink and even sometimes will look like an earthy brown color. Often when we see blood we think there is a big scrap or ouch! But this blood is special.”
- “Sometimes blood means other things like changes and growth. Remember when your tooth came out? There was a little blood that came out with your tooth. This did not mean you had a scrap in your mouth, but was part of the process of letting go of your tooth. Periods are kind of like that too. It is a letting go, not a hurt.”
- “Someday, your breasts will begin to change and grow and you will also begin your period. You will know when you begin your period, when you go to the bathroom and wipe and notice blood on the toilet paper. Or you go to the bathroom and you will notice blood on your panties. Do not be scared, because remember, it is your uterus shedding the special blanket or fluids. And remember this is the blood that represents as a letting go, no the kind of blood that represents a hurt or a scrap.”
- “On this day, you will have changed from a girl to a teenager or a woman. Tell me when this happens so I can do something extra special for you to celebrate. Maybe we could go and buy bath products, get your hair and nail done, and go out to lunch to celebrate.”
Talking To Your Daughter About Puberty
..She Will Most Likely Feel
Say, “We need to talk what is going to happen, down there.”
If you cannot name her feminine body parts, than she experiences her body as something that needs to be hidden or shameful.
Avoid the topic and do not say anything.
She may be terrified when she spots blood and has no idea why.
Hand her a book about puberty, and do not talk to her. You leave her to figure it all out on her own.
She may feel humiliated because this is something that is going to happen to her, and yet you cannot talk to her about it. She will internalize this as something that is wrong with her.
This is an amazing book. Reading this book empowers female readers about their changing bodies, including menarche, childbirth, infant loss, infertility, and menopause.
Celebrating Girls Rite of Passage
Some cultures celebrate female transitions- either girl to womanhood or the transition from maiden to mother. During these rights of passage women gather together to honor and initiate the unique and powerful female change of one of their female friends or family members.
Initiating girls to womanhood has been around for centuries. Women used to gather in what was called “The Red Tent.” The red tent was a place women when they were menstruating. During their menstruation they would not work in the fields, cook in their homes or take care of older children. Instead, they would gather in the sacred space used only during times of menstruation and childbirth. At the red tent other women who were also menstruating nurtured each other. Together they would facilitate community, laughter, tears, personal care, as they shed their monthly cycle.
A girl was invited into the red tent when she had her menarche, also known as her first menstrual bleeding. She would be blessed, washed, and decorated with henna and beads. She would be welcomed into the community of other women with prayer, food and dance. She would be honored and celebrated for becoming a woman on that day.
Although, modern culture has come a long way from red tents it is still important for girls and women to revere the scared of their miraculous changing body.
Do you think girls would feel better about their bodies if we took time to celebrate and honor their changes with respect and reverence?
If your mom was going to honor your menarche, which celebration would you prefer?
Have A Menarche Celebration
Be prepared for your daughter to tell you she started her first menstrual cycle at age 8. It might seem early, however research continues to indicate girls show signs of breast buds before the age of 10 and some as early as 8 years old. The age of puberty continues to drop.
When she does tell you about her first sign of menstrual blood, or you notice the signs, begin to prepare to bless her.
You know your daughter well. Some daughters might feel mortified if you bring over all her aunts, older sisters, grandmother’s and your women friends to celebrate her first menstrual cycle. Other daughters might enjoy the company and the celebration with gifts. Decide what is best for your daughter, you could even ask her what she would like.
Take Your Daughter Out To Lunch
On a smaller scale, you could privately take her to lunch and buy her a nice pair of earrings.
A Women's Gathering
Invite all her older female relatives and friends. Have all of the guests sit in a circle. Using a large ball of yarn, silk or thread, encourage each female participant to tie the thread around their wrists, and then toss the thread to someone else across from them in the circle without cutting it. When the ball of thread lands in their lap, encourage each woman to pause and offer a blessing or advice to your daughter and maybe even their own story of their first period.
Eventually, as everyone ties the thread around their wrist and tosses it to someone else in the circle, a large web of thread develops. Everyone is connected. This web is the physical manifestation of the love and support that surrounds your daughter and welcomes her into a community of women as a woman.
Beads For A Special Ceremony
Mail A Bead
If you would like to do something for your daughter, but feel a party will be too embarrassing or family is geographically too spread out to come, you could do a celebration through the mail. Ask all her female elders; aunts, grandmothers, older sisters and female family friends to find and purchase a special bead for your daughter. Ask them to mail the bead with a note describing a wish or blessing for your daughter now that she has come of age. Once the beads are collected, help your daughter to make a bracelet.