When I was around 7 years old, my sister had a pet mouse (a female to be specific). At some point, the mouse started hemorrhaging. Thinking that the mouse was hurt, I ran to my parents to see if we could take the mouse to a doctor. That’s when my dad explained to me that the mouse was female and just having something called a period. He explained that it was something female bodies do. In his words, “Just like your mom and sisters.” Unfortunately, the hemorrhaging that this mouse was experiencing had nothing to do with a monthly cycle. It died several days later and the words “just like your mom and sisters” rang in my ears. Needless to say, I started to sob believing that every female in my family would perish in the next couple of days. After some explaining, I eventually calmed down.
The things that happen during puberty in girls can be equally confusing. A lot of changes happen to girls in particular. We can sit on the sidelines and let our wives or other women handle the discussions with our daughters. However, we run a significant risk of increasing awkwardness if we leave things unsaid. Our daughters can benefit from a male perspective. Here’s how to talk to your daughter about puberty.
Note to the Single Dad
For the single dad, this is much more difficult and complicated. In most cases, it will be easier for your daughter to hear practical body changes from a woman who has firsthand experience and understanding. If mom is not in the picture or unreliable, have a trusted woman help you. If that is not an option, it is up to you. Don’t shy away from it. You need to do it or she will get her information from the Internet or friends. It is a time of great uncertainty and confusion. She will probably be insecure about how she looks and the changes. The main thing to communicate to your daughter is that she is growing from a lovely girl into a beautiful young lady. Hearing that from Dad is essential.
Note to the Married Dad
Talk it over with your wife. Ask her how involved she would like you to be. Your role might be limited, but there are things you need to acknowledge to your daughter about the things she is going through or your relationship can become awkward. Let her know that her mom shared with you the things they talked about. Ask her how she feels. Have some discussion about it. Remember: She needs to hear from you that she is changing and beautiful.
For All Dads
She’s going to feel awkward having this conversation with anyone, let alone Dad. Persist through comments like, “Oh my gosh! Dad!” and “I know. I know. We don’t have to talk about this. I know it all.” or eye rolls.
Have a Sense of Humor
Humor can be a great way to relax the conversation and get her to lower her guard. Have fun with her resistance to the conversation. Perhaps even pick the topic that will make her squirm the most and throw it out there. Make sure it is clear that you are poking fun at the conversation, not at her.
Topics to Discuss
Make her aware of these things. Her knowledge will help her navigate.
- Hormones and Emotional Ups and Downs: A flood of hormones are going to cause her moods to fluctuate. She is going to cry and have no reason why. She will also be sensitive about things that normally wouldn’t bother her. It isn’t her fault, but knowing may help her maintain perspective and discount it.
- Menstrual Cycle and Vaginal Discharge: I didn’t put this here for shock value. It’s important for her to know what to expect so she’s not left alone in fear and confusion when it happens. Tell her; do not leave it up to a doctor or anyone else. They may impose their own viewpoints about sexuality, inconsistent with the values of your home. Here are more details on what happens when a girl becomes a woman.
- Growth Spurts, Pimples, Braces, and Breast Development: Explain that these changes are natural. They will feed her insecurity, particularly if she develops earlier or later than her peers. She needs your reassurance of her value and beauty. Make sure she gets a lot of it.
- Feelings About Boys: Boys move from annoying to attractive. Tell her how differently boys and girls approach and think about relationships with the opposite sex. Check out the book For Young Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice.
- What Puberty is Like for Boys Her Age: It will be reassuring and enlightening to know what changes the boys are experiencing.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “In what ways do you think you have changed in the last year?”