When Should You Have “The Talk”

When it’s time to sit down and talk to your pre-teen or teenage girl about the tricky subjects of puberty, periods and hormones, the keys are to be prepared and stay calm. You might be dreading the conversation, and it’s likely your daughter is dreading it as well. Chances are, she’s heard about these subjects at school and from friends and peers. But, even so, she might not be eager to have “the talk.”

Former sexual health educator and current office manager at Advanced Women’s Healthcare Maggie Fuller offers this advice for having “the talk” with your daughter:

First Things First: What is Puberty?

Puberty is the process when a child’s body turns into an adult’s body. For girls, puberty means the beginning of menstruation, meaning their bodies are now capable of reproducing. 

Who Should Deliver the Talk to Girls

Puberty can be a scary, uncertain and confusing time for girls, so it’s important for girls to have a trustworthy mentor, someone they can feel comfortable going to with questions. 

For single fathers, it might be best to enlist the help of the daughter’s best friend’s mom, an aunt or another trusted adult like a health counselor or school nurse. Bottom line, if a parent isn’t comfortable having the talk and answering questions, he or she shouldn’t be the one to have the talk. Parents might want to consider having another adult present for the conversation; someone who is comfortable with the situation.

Be Prepared For the Talk with These Three Steps:

  1. Be ready to use correct terms. Children need to learn and use the correct names of body parts. This is critical in the event they need to report something to a medical professional, counselor or member of law enforcement. Using slang can be confusing, so try to avoid it whenever possible.
  2. Gather up good resources. This can include these Youtube videos on Female Puberty (LINK) and Top Signs Girls are In Puberty. (LINK) Have feminine pads and tampons on hand, and be ready to explain their uses.
  3. Organize a safe space for the talk, where your daughter will be comfortable asking questions and not feel embarrassed. This would not be at the dinner table with her older brothers. But, depending on your daughter and her friends, it could be a group of moms and daughters coming together to share the experience. There can be power and support in numbers.

Perfect Timing

Time your talk for shortly after one of your daughter’s sex education classes at school. It’s easier to piggy back your conversation off of what she’s learning in health class. But don’t schedule your talk. She might end up dreading it. Make it appear to be casual and spontaneous. 

Talking to Girls about Puberty

Once you are ready for the talk, approach your daughter in a safe space and calmly tell her you’d like to talk about puberty. Don’t take the talk too seriously. Make sure your daughter understands that there won’t be a quiz at the end. Instead, reinforce that you simply want to chat with her about what she’s learning in school and about her own body and help her through the process with all the support she needs.

Reinforce to her that everyone goes through puberty. It is unique to each person, and it happens at the time that’s just right for each individual. Everyone experiences the body and hormonal changes, and they can be different for each girl.

Also explain to your daughter that this is the first conversation of many, because this transformation will take time, and you’re going to be beside her during the journey.

It’s helpful to approach the subject of puberty by bringing yourself back to that time in your own life. All moms, parents and guardians can think back to, “What did we know at that age, and what were our thoughts? What was happening to our body? Are we feeling scared?” Using empathy will help your daughter relate and trust you.

Calmly guide your daughter through the changes she is or will soon be experiencing:

Talking Points: What are the Changes of Puberty for Girls?

  1. Gain height
  2. Grow breasts: It’s normal for one breast to be slightly larger than the other.
  3. Weight gain: All young people gain weight during puberty. The weight gain can be due to physical growth or an increase in fat on the body. Both are completely normal.
  4. Hair growth: Under arms, on legs, around genitals.
  5. Acne: During puberty, your body starts producing more oil. The oil and dirt that gets trapped in the pores can lead to pimples or more widespread acne. Blemishes can appear on the face or other parts of the body, like the back or shoulders.
  6. Change in hair texture: Texture and color can change. Straight hair can become curlier.
  7. Hormones: Hormones are natural chemicals found in our bodies. We all have them, no matter our age. Hormones are responsible for all of the physical changes in puberty (as well as some of the emotional ones). During puberty, they’re present at high levels, but they even out once puberty is done.
  8. Voice deepens: While we consider this a characteristic of boys going through puberty, girls will experience a slight deepening of the voice as well.
  9. Menstruation: One of the most dramatic changes a girl’s body goes through is menstruating or getting her period. This is part of the normal monthly cycle where her body is preparing for a possible pregnancy by building up a lining of blood and body tissue in her uterus. Periods last, on average, five to seven days. What’s going on during this time? Once a month, one of her ovaries releases an ovum or egg. This means her body is preparing for when she is older and may want to get pregnant. If she has unprotected sex after the egg is released, that egg could meet with a sperm and then attach itself to the wall of the uterus. When that happens, she is pregnant. If a girl or woman is not pregnant, the lining in the uterus is no longer needed, so it and the tiny egg leave her body during menstruation or her period. 
  10. Hips widen.
  11. Muscle growth.
  12. Sweat starts to smell.

Bottom line, stay calm and don’t dread this important talk with your daughter. She will probably handle it better than you expected. Keep it casual, stick to the facts and don’t get overwhelmed. Finish the conversation by reminding her that this is the first of many casual chats and that you are always willing to answer her questions and concerns.

AWH Dallas Facebook Fan Julie Says:

“We went to a mom and me class about My Changing Body at Medical City Plano with some friends that was taught by one of their OBs. It was so fun and cute and I thought the whole time that Dr. Heintges should be teaching this. She would make it so fun.”

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