How to Avoid Sharks, and other important lessons to help your pre-teen daughter survive puberty

How to help your pre-teen daughter survive puberty

I grew up in a girl-centered household. With only one sister and a single mother, conversations about periods, puberty, cramps, boys and bras were natural. Now that I have two teenage daughters of my own - one well on the downward slope of her teen years and one just getting started - there’s an overabundance of estrogen and all things female in my house (which may or may not explain my husband’s fondness for Jägermeister).

Over the past six years I’ve learned that having pre-teen daughters can be both delightful (sharing clothes! shopping trips! rom-com movies!) and prove to be a challenge (hormones, 'nuff said … and could you please pass the Jäger?).  And as they've grown I've also come to realize that it's our job as parents to teach them things far more important than how to give mama a pedicure or how to french-braid their own hair.

As our daughters get older, there are a few things that are vital for them to know so they don’t leave the house looking like a Yeti, smelling like a dead rodent, or even worse, running the risk of being eaten by a shark. And whether they like it or not, you need to be there to guide them through the murky — and sometimes shark infested — waters. 

aSo for those of you with young girls, take note. For those of you with sons, stop laughing. Despite what you might think, you’re gonna have to wash sheets a lot more times than we will. 


Legs: Around 5th grade your daughter’s little bare legs will start to look like she’s wearing Uggs. 

All the time

When either she becomes self-conscious of it or starts to trap mosquitoes and gnats, it’s time to buy the $2 Raspberry Shave Gel at Target and have a date with her on the side of the bathtub. Ditto for underarms. 

Your mom didn’t let you shave until you were in 7th grade? I don’t care, and believe me, neither do the nasty girls in your daughter’s 5th grade class who are giggling behind her back. It’s not about peer pressure, don't get me wrong, but if shaving the inch of black fur off her legs is something that makes your daughter feel grown up and like part of the female pack? As difficult as it may be for you, it’s time to start letting her have a say in her own hygiene. 

After all, it is her body. 

Bikini Area:  All girls are different, but after your daughter has started growing hair in places other than her head you can assume that when swimsuit season comes along she’s gonna need some crucial advice. And younger girls not only don’t think of shaving their bikini line, they are horrified when you tell them about it. It won’t be necessary right away, but trust me, you must step in and provide this vital lesson by the time your daughter is about 14 or 15-years-old so she doesn’t appear to be smuggling a Furby into the pool. 

I did it by tossing my teenager a razor, some shaving gel and a tube of Bikini Zone and talking her through it - step by step - through the closed bathroom door, after I’d given her a quick demonstration by wearing my swimsuit bottoms and pantomiming the entire process. Was that awkward, you ask? Not at all, and it also proved that I’d kill if I ever get the card “shaving bikini line” in a game of charades.


There’s a good chance you’ll realize it’s time for your daughter to upgrade from the thin cotton undershirt-looking “bra” covered in comical monkey faces from Justice® way before she does. Let me put it this way: If it starts to look like her shirt was hung on the drying rack by two clothespins right at her chest line, it's time to go real bra shopping. 

Make it fun. Go to lunch! Find cute, colorful bras that fit. Buy one for yourself while you're at it! Turn it into a real girls' day.

And when she makes you keep your eyes trained on the floor the whole time you're in the dressing room with her (if she'll even let you in), do it. Don't sneak a peek. Respect her privacy, adjust the straps, and try very hard not to cry over the fact that she already has bigger boobs than you do.


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