Your daughter is growing up so fast. It seems like just yesterday you were rocking her to sleep and before you know it, she’ll be a woman.
And whether you’re ready or not, the important question is: Is she?
Between the mood swings, awkwardness and hormones, it can be a tough time to talk about puberty – or anything else for that matter. But if you’re armed with a little know-how and strategies, you’ll be able to get her through it. Here are 10 ways.
1. Know what to expect
Between the ages of 8 and 10, girls enter pre-puberty, yet many mothers and daughters don’t expect these changes to happen so early, according to Dr. Cara Natterson, a pediatrician and author of The Care and Keeping of You 2. “Their hormones are shifting and their bodies are starting to change very slowly,” she said. Hormones also play a big role in how your daughter thinks and feels, so she might be extra moody, chatty, or act silly.
2. Start with soap
“Hygiene is probably the easiest first step into conversations about body,” Natterson said. It’s important to talk to your daughter about keeping her body clean so it can grow well— such as washing her face, brushing her teeth and hair, and showering every day. It’s important considering some kids are not even taught to use soap, Natterson said. “Don’t assume your kid knows.”
3. It’s her life, not yours
“It’s not about you, Mom,” said Natterson, who added it’s okay to tell your daughter that you remember going through it, but be sure to put the focus on what she’s experiencing.
4. Go to the mall
Most girls love shopping, and it’s a great way to talk about her changing body, according to Dr. Tanya Altmann, a pediatrician in Westlake Village, Calif., and a designated spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Offer to bring her to shop for a bra or new clothes, and you can use it as an opportunity to talk about puberty.
5. Be her No. 1 source of information
It’s important that your daughter knows that you will always be honest and give her the facts when she needs answers. “If you’re not honest, or forthcoming or clear about it, they’re going to go find someone else or go online themselves,” Natterson said.
6. Talk about it frequently
“This is not a one-off conversation,” Natterson said. A series of age-appropriate talks over the years is best, she added. Think you’ve missed the boat? “It’s never too late to start.”
7. Don’t look her in the eye
It can be really awkward to talk about her body and her feelings, so make eye contact off limits. “If you’re bringing up something that’s embarrassing or vulnerable, and you’re looking right at your kid, your kid’s not going to be able to answer, ” Natterson said. Instead, talk during a car ride, on a hike or on a run.
8. Know when to stop talking
Your daughter might feel uncomfortable talking about puberty, but even if you want to press on, “you stop when your child is embarrassed,” Natterson said. Your daughter will tell you she’s had enough. If she’s eager to continue talking, however, go for it.
9. Model a healthy lifestyle
Making sure your child eats healthy, exercises, and gets enough sleep is not only important as she develops, but it sets her up for a healthy future. In fact, a recent study in the International Journal of Obesity found that kids whose moms who encourage them to eat well and exercise and model those same behaviors were more likely to follow suite.
10. Foster self-esteem
Strong self-esteem is tough at this age, but encouraging self-confidence now will set the stage for the future. If your daughter is overweight, for example, talk about eating healthy and exercising rather than beauty or numbers on the scale.
Encouraging your tween to find friends who are similar to her and can help build her up is also important. “Whether it’s right or wrong, their whole world revolves around their friends,” Altmann said.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.