With a world of information available at the touch of a button or the swipe of a finger, it is perhaps more important than ever to have “the talk” with our daughters before they receive poor advice or misinformation elsewhere. But it doesn’t have to be painful — for you or her. We spoke to Dr. Samantha Hill of the Adolescent Health Center at Children’s of Alabama to learn five simple strategies for creating an open line of communication about puberty with the young girls and women in your life.
5 Tips for Talking Your Daughter Through Puberty
Remember that puberty is a complex process.
Dr. Hill’s first piece of advice is to remember that puberty is made up of multiple parts, resulting in a complicated process and experience for young girls. “Puberty is not just about how girls are changing physically, but there are also changes mentally, emotionally, psychologically, socially, and sexually,” explains Dr. Hill. “There are so many parts to this puberty process, and oftentimes, we talk about one or maybe a couple, but we forget that there are other parts, and those parts usually sneak up on us.”
While it’s important to talk with your daughter about all of the different stages of puberty, Dr. Hill recommends having these discussions in phases — not all at once. It’s often helpful to spread the conversations out as changes happen or your daughter has questions. “Puberty is a journey in and of itself, so the discussion of all the different topics that relate to puberty should be a journey as well,” adds Dr. Hill.
Create a safe and open space to have conversations.
It’s also important to be intentional about creating a safe and open-minded environment when you’re having conversations about puberty. Dr. Hill adds that parents should be flexible and discuss topics on the fly as they come up. “Ideally, if you know you’re going to sit down and talk to your daughter about puberty, ask her, ‘Hey, is this a good time to talk?'” she explains. “Make sure the conversation takes place in a neutral location or even a place where they feel like they have power, as opposed to a place where you have power.” On the other hand, if your daughter approaches you with questions and it’s not a good time to talk, Dr. Hill says to be honest and tell her you will talk about it together later and be intentional about setting a time to do so.
Use appropriate language and vocabulary.
When discussing puberty, Dr. Hill says that parents will often give nicknames to body parts, but she emphasizes the importance of calling them by their actual name. “Giving and teaching these young ladies the actual name and using the appropriate vocabulary is very helpful and empowering,” she says. This will help your daughter when she interacts with someone in a healthcare setting or someone who is not in her family. By knowing and speaking the formal name, your daughter can express herself more accurately and confidently while also ensuring that the person listening understands her.
Be honest about what you may or may not know.
Whether you’re a mom talking to her daughter or a dad talking to his daughter, it’s unlikely you will know everything about puberty. Dr. Hill says to be transparent with your daughter when you don’t know something. “Be honest and take the opportunity for the two of you to learn together,” she says. “If the young person says, ‘How will I know when I’m close to getting my period?’ and you as a parent don’t know, that can be something that you look up together.”
Utilize your village.
Dr. Hill’s final tip is to “utilize your village,” which means use your resources — whether your daughter’s primary care provider or a teacher at school. If you and your daughter have questions about puberty, you can go to your daughter’s doctor and have them answered together. “Our goal when we talk to anybody’s child about puberty is to make sure we’re doing it in a developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive way,” explains Dr. Hill. “We’re not going to introduce terms or things that may be suited for an older teen. We want to meet the young person where they are, and we also want to be mindful and respectful of different cultural values and perspectives.”
If you have additional questions or want more information on talking to your daughter about puberty, Dr. Hill recommends three great books for parents and their daughters to read. Girlology: A Girl’s Guide to Stuff That Matters focuses solely on the female puberty experience; You-Ology: A Puberty Guide for Every Body focuses on both the male and female experience and Teaching Children with Down Syndrome About Their Bodies, Boundaries, and Sexuality focuses on children who may have Down syndrome or other cognitive disabilities.
This article is sponsored by Children’s of Alabama.