Once you are parents, you know the day will come eventually where you will have to have “The talk” I know, I know; it’s scary. It’s one of those things you kind of wish you would never have to do, maybe that they will just “know” the information by divine intervention or something, but alas, this is one moment that all parents will have to go through. It’s a milestone not only for your children but also for you, and one that cannot be put off forever. My oldest just turned 10 and I knew that it was time to begin this conversation with her. Was I scared? Yes. Was it awkward. Yup. Did we cover everything? Nope, not yet. Did we survive. Yes. If you are nearing this stage as well, then here are 10 tips for having “the talk” with your tween daughter, so that everyone can make it out alive.
Let me begin by saying that I am no doctor or medical professional, this is just one mom sharing what worked for her and her daughter. No two girls are the same, so use your own best judgement for talking to your daughter!
1.Break it up
In my opinion, there are two parts of this major talk with daughters: the beginning part that covered the changes she will go through in her own body (periods and puberty) and then the making a baby part. In my opinion, and again I am no doctor, just like all stages of life, the maturity and readiness of a child to understand these concepts varies by age. Since my daughter was approaching 10 and not even close to hitting puberty yet, or even really having crushes on boys, I felt like we could put off the second part of the big talk for awhile. I know that in my kid’s school, they cover some general sex ed at some point in 5th grade, so I will have to talk with her about the birds and the bees part probably by the end of this year, so that we have discussed it at home and she is not blindsided when she hears things at school. It’s a lot to take in, so I also didn’t want to overwhelm her or scare her at all, since everything here is natural, but a lot for a 10 year old girl’s mind to absorb.
2.Do some research for yourself
What sparked this conversation for me was the fact that my OB-GYN’s office does a “just for big girls” talk at a local hotel. Girls aged 9 and up were invited to come with a parent and talk about the basics of getting your period and the changes that will happen in their bodies as they get older. I was SO thankful for this symposium, it was fun, funny and honest- and I knew that hearing these kinds of words like “boobs” and “bras” and “tampons” would sound better coming from a doctor, and not just MOM. I sat with my daughter first and discussed what would be covered and knew many of her friends would be there too, but the meeting was a nice follow up to what we discussed.
3.Begin by asking questions…
When you have finally mustered up the courage to talk with her, I would suggest just talking with her alone, in a safe and happy place. I waited until the little ones were in bed and we chatted in her room about it. I began by asking her “do you know any differences about my body and your body?” and, of course, her first answer was that mine was old and hers was not (thanks for that!!) but then, after a few more questions, she began to say that I had boobs and she didn’t and we went from there. I explained that there comes a time in every girls life (yes, every single girl in the world!) that you begin to change from a young girl into a woman, and that there were changes that went along with that. I explained that eventually her body would be old enough to get married and have babies, and that there were important changes that happened inside an out, that make that possible.
4.And be ready to know what you will answer
If you are like me, and you are going to spilt this talk into two parts, then know what you will cover and what you won’t. If she is very curious or already knows some things (which is a definite possibility!) then you may cover more than you intended, but use your daughters age and maturity level to know where you will say “that’s a good question, but it’s going to be something we will cover another day”. It’s ok to cover some of it, or all of it. Let her be your guide.
5.Be honest, mindful and accurate
If you haven’t already covered the proper terms for her body parts, now is a good time. It’s definitely bizarre to say the word “vagina” to my 10 year old, but it’s important that they understand what everything is and know that the chances they go through are 100% natural and expected, and NOTHING to be ashamed of. If you dodge her questions too much, or use different words for things, eventually she will learn how it really works, and may now think that there is something wrong with calling your private parts a vagina, when, in fact, that’s what they are called. Also, be mindful of her mental limitations. If she is looking scared or overwhelmed, STOP and tell her that you can talk more a different day. Obviously this talk is not something that has to be covered in a day, tell her to think about what you talked about and to come to you again when she has questions or want to learn more.
6.Make sure Dad, and any other important grown ups in her life, are on the same page
I think this is important. Unless your husband is a gynecologist, he will probably be more squeamish than you are, but be sure that he understand WHAT you are talking with her about, and tell him to be ready to answer questions if needed. Explain to your daughter that Daddy understand about all of this stuff too, so she can talk with him if she wants too- she may not, but it’s good for her to know that she can talk with both parents. The same goes for grandparents, aunts or other important adults in their lives. You don’t want her to be getting mixed messages from people. Not that you have to send out a family wide email stating that “you had the talk with so and so”, but if it’s someone she sees often and think that she may confide in them, it’s good for everyone to all be on the same page.
7.Make it silly
Like I said before, it’s SO important for her to understand that these changes are natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Make the talk light hearted or even silly, maybe sharing the story of when you got your first period, so she feels less nervous or embarrassed. You want to be sure that she feels completely comfortable talking with you when these changes, and all of the other ones she’ll go through, start to happen.
8.Give her a way to find more out on her own
We are huge book readers in this house, and I cannot recommend enough the American Girl’s Care and Keeping of You book. There are two volumes, one for younger girls and one for older girls. For this age, the younger girls one is perfect. It covers the typical changes that happen in your body as you grow and enter puberty in a simple to understand and fun way that she can read on her own and keep private, kind of like a reference guide. At the end of our talk, I gave my daughter the book and told her it was just for her to read and to let me know if she has any questions. I told her to be sure that her little brother and sister didn’t see it, because it was special, just for her- which was true, but also I didn’t really need to have my 8 year old son getting ready to ask me questions I didn’t think he was ready for yet!! I plan on getting her the book for older girls before we have the next “talk”
9.Listen to her
When talking with your daughter, use her questions and comments as a guide to see what she is ready for, and what she is not. Instead of just listing off body parts and facts to her, ask her questions and listen to her answers. Remember that this is a conversation, that takes two people, not a lecture.
10.Be a role model about body image
If you have daughters (and I assume you do, or else why would you be reading this!!), then you probably know of the ridiculous portrayal the media has about the women’s body. Everywhere we look, we see skinnier girls, constantly worried about how they look, and what they are wearing, and what other people think of them. While I could go on and on about this topic for days, I’ll save that for another post, and instead just remind you that your daughter is seeing these images, just like we are- on tv shows, movies, commercials, billboards, in magazines. Entering puberty is an insanely difficult time for a girl. They will begin to worry about their appearance and what others think of them. Be sure to set a good example for them by not parading around saying “ugg, I’m so fat” or “yuck, I look so ugly”. Remember that kids love to copy adults, and if you are constantly saying these kinds of things, they are internalizing them- and I am not perfect in this, and have been guilty of saying these things from time to time, but now as my girls are getting older, I realized what a negative impact that can have on their lives, and am very, very careful about what I say. So, if my daughter asks me why I am going to the gym, my response is “so that my body can continue to be healthy” instead of “I want to lose a few pounds”- even if I really would. Be mindful of your responses and conversations, and know that your daughter is getting ready to enter one of the most challenging times of her life- the teen years, and she can use all the help and support she can get.
Much of motherhood, even though we don’t often care to admit it, is learning to let go little by little and this time is no different. Our job as parents is to prepare our children for the world and give them all the tools we can muster so they enter adulthood as prepared and ready as they can. These types of conversations we have, especially with our daughters, begin to set a precedence, for what values and expectations we have for our children, and also for what awaits them in the future. I know that I want more than anything else, for my children to know they can always come to me with any problem or questions they have and know that I will be there to support and love them, no matter what. Talking with your daughter about her body is the beginning of this part of your relationship with her, and it just gets more complicated from here. Start off right, by being honest and mindful about what you talk about, and most importantly, by listening to her. Explain that you have been down this journey, and know it’s bumpy one, but that you will be there, every step of the way.