How to Have the Best Puberty Chat with Your Teen Girl
We want to chat through one of the most common questions we get asked which is how do I know when my daughter is ready to start talking about puberty?
Make yourself a cuppa or run yourself a warm bath (or heck, why not both) while we have a yarn about “the chat”, which mind you, should not be “the chat” but rather a number of small, concise, and layered convos that happen over a period of time. Current research says so and so do we. It’s proven that this is not only far less overwhelming and natural for all parties involved but also shifts the focus away from being simply a transfer of information towards an emphasis on building an ongoing, trusting, honest and open relationship between you and your girl.
First up. What age should you start thinking about starting these conversations?
Conversations about bodies changing can happen as young as your child is able to comprehend and begin to notice differences between people's bodies. My daughter is four and we often chat about why my body is different from hers, and why Grandma's body is different again. The concept that bodies change is one that can be introduced very early and should lead quite naturally, softly and easily into chatting about the specific changes of puberty as the time approaches. It is equally important to begin teaching our girls about their anatomy and use the correct biological terms from a young age. Using the correct names for private parts can increase a child’s agency over their body, promote a positibe body image and decrease shame. Not only that, research shows that children who know the correct names are less likely to be sexually abused, more likely to disclose and more likely to be understoof when disclosing. You can find out more about the benefits of using the correct terminology for all body parts here or through the following website.
All of these small moments of teaching and instilling value throughout their childhood can only lead to a smoother season as they approach womanhood, remember, knowledge is power!
It is essential to keep in mind that puberty in girls can begin as early as 8 years old and that most schools will deliver some form of education on the topic in Grades 5 or 6 (more on school education in a sec, okay). It is important, as parents, that we pre-empt the information our children are going to need for the next stage of their development.
Keeping those ages and grades in mind, we stick to the notion that it is far better to get in early and prepare your daughter than for her to be left in the dark, ignorant or feeling worried about what her body is doing. The last thing you want is for her to feel blindsided by her own body, like most of us probably were! You might feel that your daughter is not emotionally ready or mature enough to have these conversations and it is important to exercise wisdom in these instances, but also critical to remember that puberty doesn’t necessarily ‘wait’ until she seems ready. You may notice physical changes beginning to take place long before you feel she is emotionally ready and that mama is where you need to step in anyway and start informing her about the wonderful process her body has started.
So, what are some of the early physical signs to look out for?
One of the first signs you may notice is a sudden growth spurt where her hands and feet grow first, followed by limbs. This is usually followed by weight gain, and it is completely normal for a girl to gain 6-7kg over the 2-3 years of puberty. I’ll say it again for the people at the back. Weight gain during puberty is normal and healthy. If you don’t believe me, click here for some more info. This weight gain may be followed by or coincide with breast budding, which is the small, hard lumps which will form behind her nipples and begin to push the nipples outward (read all about this in Part 02). When breast budding begins, it generally means that she will get her first period around 2 – 2 ½ years from then.
So, take a big breath because you’ve got time and her body has a lot of developing (blossoming, as we like to say) before menstruation begins. If you do begin to notice any of these signs then don’t leave it too long before you start explaining to her (using our books of course – wink, wink) the internal workings of her remarkable body so that she can be assured it is all normal, wonderful and a reflection of her health and vitality.
Obviously, if your gal is asking you lots of questions then simply follow her lead. This is your opportunity to not only pass on valuable information and knowledge but to tell stories, have a giggle, instil value and worth and continue to build the cornerstones of an honest and deep relationship to last through all her years. Now, not every girl is going to ask questions or even seem interested in chatting about her body, let alone the changes associated with puberty. This doesn’t take away from the fact that they NEED to know about it and most likely are fascinated (even if they couldn’t seem to care less if they tried). If they don’t bring it up first, then that’s where you step in. Just because they don’t seem interested or they seem embarrassed, does not mean that they don’t need this information in order to understand and take care of their bodies well.
Many parents worry that by beginning these chats too early, they may say too much or encourage their child towards being sexually active too soon.
You have nothing to be concerned about.
Having these conversations is actually another amazing occasion in which you are able to guide them and mould their attitudes and behaviours towards sex, love and relationships in a way that suits your families’ beliefs and moral standards. Furthermore, research shows that our sons and daughters who are well educated in regard to sex and their sexual health are less likely to be sexually active and when they are, are much safer than the counterparts who receive little input.
Remember, the beauty of having ongoing, open, and honest convos is that you don’t have to say everything all at once. Your 8-year-old daughter who is beginning the physical changes of puberty, may in no way be ready for (or have any need) to chat through the nitty-gritty of sexual intercourse so all she really needs to know right now is about the changes that are taking place in her body and what will come next. By the time she gets her first period at age 10 or 11, you may feel that it is time to talk through the basics of sexual intercourse and reproduction. By the time she is 14 or 15 your conversations may have led you to chatting about contraception methods for example. It is always going to be far better coming from you than from the school, her peers or heaven forbid, the big world wide web.
IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE ALL AT ONCE. We actually can’t stress this enough. You have time. It doesn’t need to be perfect, there is always the next conversation to add in that bit you missed or get it right.
This is a season where kindness, grace and open space will get you far.
No need to dread the puberty years. No more quivering in your boots as you notice your daughter's body or emotions starting to change.
It is not scary; it is an opportunity.
An opportunity to come alongside them, to empower our girls. To instil value and worth as we mentioned before. Even more than that, it is a season to grow and learn…together! It is a precious time of establishing life-long healthy habits, not only physically, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Be present. For what you are witnessing is the real-life time lapse of a beauty blooming into all she was meant to be. You don’t want to miss a thing!
Soak it up, mama.
We've got your back. "Part 01: Remarkable" and "Part 02: Blossom, baby!" of The Bloom Collection are designed to inform, empower and inspire you as you begin these conversations and will see you right the way through to when your girl gets her first period. Get your copy here!
Forever in your corner – and your daughters!