How To Have “The Talk” With Your Daughter
By Lissa Rankin on August 10, 2011
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As part of my UbyKotex corporate spokesperson job, I was recently interviewed by Breezy Mama about how to have “the talk” about puberty, periods, and sexual development with your daughter. Since I’m already having the talk and many of you might need to do the same, I wanted to share it with you here!
Breezy Mama: You state that many girls get their period at age 8, but at what age should we explain what a period is?
Dr. Lissa: I think you can’t start too early. My 5 year old daughter already knows that when girls get older, they start having blood come out of their vagina, and when that happens, they can have babies. We haven’t had the birds and the bees talk, because it hasn’t come up yet, but she knows about periods and hopefully wouldn’t be caught off guard when hers appears one day.
Breezy Mama: How do we start the “period” talk?
Dr. Lissa: Again, I think it depends on your child -- you know your child better than anyone else. But I think we need to have the talk no later than 8, since some girls will start their periods at this age. Certainly, watch for physical signs of development -- pubic and axillary hair, breast buds, mood swings, acne. If you notice any of these, her period could be right around the corner, so start talking!
Breezy Mama: When having the talk, what exactly do we say? Is there a book for moms to brush up on their own knowledge?
Dr. Lissa: My mother gave me the book What’s Happening To Me, which is still a bestseller after all these years! She read it with me and gave me the opportunity to ask questions. If you pick a special day to make this happen -- maybe bake cookies together, go out to lunch, take a hike -- then you can make the whole experience fun, which will set you up for a lifetime of intimate talks with your daughter. If you’re not sure what to say or how to get started, you can find helpful tips and connect with other Moms at Kotex.com/tween. Or if you want to learn more about the female body yourself so you feel more empowered to help your daughter, read my book What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend before having the talk.
Breezy Mama: This is how I can see “the talk” happening to me and my daughter: I would over compensate with the clinical side as a result of feeling embarrassed. Then, I could see my daughter’s eyes glazing over because I’m going into too much detail. How much “clinical talk” should I provide?
Dr. Lissa: You don’t have to offer too much information on your first chat. Tell her the nuggets -- that her body will start making hormones and her hormones will cause some changes, like she might start developing breasts, get hair on her vulva, and start bleeding from her vagina. If you’ve still got her attention, tell her what periods mean -- that the uterus gets ready every month so the body can make a baby and when there’s no baby, the blood has to come out. Reassure her that this kind of blood is healthy and normal and nothing to be afraid of, but give her a heads up that she’ll want to be prepared when the time comes so she knows what to do.
Offer to take her down the feminine hygiene aisle and show her around, or be prepared at home with products you might want to show her. UbyKotex makes snazzy little pads just for tweens with cool packaging and smaller than usual pads.
Tell her some stories from your childhood. Don’t make it too clinical. Let her know she won’t be alone. Chances are she’ll have lots of questions -- or not. Let her run the show. If she glazes over, let the information you’ve given her sink in and give her a book to read and let her read it privately if that makes her more comfortable. Then set up a follow up date with her so you can talk more about it.
For more tips on how to have the talk, read this parent’s guide about how to talk to your tween about periods. Or visit Kotex.com/tween for more information.
Dr. Lissa: Let her choose. Most girls feel more comfortable wearing a pad at first, since putting something inside the vagina can feel foreign and scary. Explain to her the pluses and minuses of both and let her pick. If she’s on the swim team, a ballet dancer, or a competitive gymnast, you might want to encourage her to at least try tampons, so she doesn’t feel like her period is something that keeps her from doing what she loves, which helps empower her to love her body.
Often, moms incorrectly pass on the message to their daughters that tampons make you lose your virginity. This simply isn’t true. While it’s true that wearing tampons may break a girl’s hymen, it’s often already broken from other activities (riding a bike, straddling a balance beam, falling as a child) by the time they start wearing tampons and has nothing to do with virginity.
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