There are many moments in a child’s life that parents look forward to, big milestones like their child’s first steps, first words, big birthdays and graduations. But there is one memorable moment that most parents dread and many even try to avoid: having “the talk.” The awkwardness of discussing puberty, sex and reproduction can be difficult for parents and kids alike, which often leads to either no talk at all or one in which no clear and useful information is shared. For parents of young girls, the Women’s Center at Brookwood Baptist has come up with a helpful solution: a seminar-style presentation about all things girlhood for moms and daughters.
“’The talk’ is a big source of anxiety for both parents and daughters,” says Brookwood’s Director of Women’s Services Sandra Brewton. “It’s a difficult conversation. Sometimes girls are embarrassed for their moms to talk to them about things like that, and sometimes moms are at a loss on how to say things. We’re offering them a scenario in which the talk is given accurately and with the appropriate terminology.”
Entitled “Let’s Talk About Girl Things,” the seminar is held in a classroom at the hospital’s Women’s Medical Center and is presented by female gynecologists. It focuses on the traditional puberty and reproduction talk, specifically for girls between the ages of 8 and 12. “The age group may seem a little young, but the information shared isn’t graphic. In this age group of girls there is often a curiosity on their end, and they are quite interested in learning — and it’s before the topic becomes taboo as they get a little older,” explains Dr. Christina Maddox of Alabama Women’s Specialists, who created this event. “My thought was that if it’s in a hospital setting and kept very clinical that it could be so helpful to girls and their moms. Even for me as a gynecologist it’s not always easy talking about this stuff with my daughter. I knew it would be nice for other moms to have somewhere to take their daughter and have the appropriate people lay down the groundwork of the conversation.”
To do that, the seminar is broken into two parts. The first is all about anatomy and puberty specifically for females. “We talk about what puberty is, the normal female anatomy, and what the normal changes are,” shares Dr. Sarah Whitehead of Sparks & Favor, PC, who is a gynecologist and presented alongside Dr. Maddox during the pilot event back in January. “I see so many young women in my clinic who just don’t know what’s normal. The seminar is a great opportunity to catch girls when they are a little younger and with their moms in tow to help them learn what to expect, what’s normal and when they need to see a doctor. Education is very powerful, so we’re giving them knowledge to empower them.”
The second half of the seminar focuses on anatomy and puberty for males, including reproduction. The second half is strictly optional for the girls whose mothers believe they are old enough for that information. “One of the things I really appreciate about the event is that we let the moms make the decisions regarding how much their daughters should hear,” says Sandra. “Depending on the age of your daughter — if she’s on the younger end — you may not want her to hear all of the information about male anatomy and sexuality. The seminar lets the moms decide what their daughters should hear depending on their developmental stage.”
Between the two main parts of the seminar is a breakout session in which the group is split into two groups, where each group gets one-on-one time with the two physicians. During that time, girls get more detailed information on things like what feminine products are and how they are used, along with getting to ask more questions in a smaller group setting. “I’m really excited for both the daughters and the mothers because with the seminar they get accurate information, and they get it in a very sensitive matter,” says Sandra. “The doctors really make an effort to get to the level of the girls talk through things not in a strong medical way, but in a way that wouldn’t be too confusing or difficult for them. They learn in a way to help alleviate fear and prepare them for what’s happening to their bodies so they aren’t anxious or afraid but instead know what to expect.”
That was exactly the case for Olivia Jacobs, whose mother Shelby took her to the seminar. “I liked that I didn’t have to be feeling weird talking about it since every girl in there was going to go through the same thing,” says Olivia. “It made me feel so much more comfortable and maybe a little excited about it. Also, I thought it was cool how they taught us about all the parts of the body and answered questions about if it would hurt and what to expect and all of those kinds of things.”
Shelby had talked about various feminine issues with her daughter before, but those conversations changed with the seminar. “Even though I’m close with my daughter, she is still very uncomfortable with the conversation,” Shelby says. “But after the event, the whole conversation changed. She’s much more open and doesn’t feel as nervous or ashamed about talking with me about it. We actually left the seminar and went to lunch together and had the conversation again. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to bond as well.”
The Women’s Center at Brookwood Baptist has hosted one seminar so far, but with such a strong turnout, the hospital is looking to add more dates to the schedule soon. “Our mission with this seminar is to educate, reduce anxiety — for both the daughters and moms — and portray the topic in a positive way so that the girls can understand how they are made and why things are happening to them,” Sandra concludes. “I think our doctors did an amazing job and are making a difference in their lives.”
To learn more about “Let’s Talk About Girl Things” & the women’s services at Brookwood, visit brookwoodbaptisthealth.com.
This article is sponsored by Brookwood Baptist Health.