How To Talk To Your Teen Daughter About Puberty
Coping with change together
Your daughter is growing up, her body is changing from a child’s to a woman’s and, at the same time, she is probably experiencing new feelings and emotions. Though puberty is an exciting and challenging time for every girl, the biological and emotional upheaval it brings could make your daughter feel confused or maybe even a little frightened. To help her through some of these important changes she needs guidance and practical information. Traditionally, this is something girls receive from their mothers. But with today’s changing society, many fathers take on this role. If you are one of them, this information may help you to help her.
Let’s Talk it Over
The time has come for you and your daughter to have that special talk. You know the basic facts of life, of course… but what’s the best way to put them into words? The best way to start is by being supportive and well informed. Here are a few suggestions.
- Relax and be yourself. If you’re embarrassed or nervous, start by saying something like, “When I was growing up, I had a lot of questions about what was happening to me.” Let your child know you’ve been there.
- Recognize that you can’t fit everything into one major discussion. Let the subject come up naturally, while watching TV or riding in the car. You’ll find that it’s easier for your child to absorb information a little at a time.
- Be aware of what happens during puberty: Changes occur step by step over several years, usually between the ages of 9 and 16. You’ll observe external changes, such as breast development and a growth spurt, while internally, the reproductive organs are also maturing. This leads up to the main event — menstruation.
- Let your daughter know that menstruating, or getting her period, is a natural, positive step toward becoming a woman. Encourage her to learn more about her anatomy, the menstrual cycle, and choosing menstrual protection.
Feminine protection products fall into two categories: external protection-pads or panty shields, and internal protection, tampons.
Many girls start with pads to become familiar with their menstrual flow. Tampons absorb menstrual flow inside the body, but because tampons are reliable, comfortable, and worn inside (so nothing shows), girls feel free to keep up with all their activities and to wear all their favorite clothes.
First-time tampon users may find that Tampax® Pearl Lites are a good choice because they have a smooth applicator and a rounded tip that makes insertion easy and comfortable.
Parents often ask, “When can a girl start to use tampons?”
The answer is: As soon as she begins to menstruate. By then, her body is mature enough to use a tampon. Inserting the tampon is not a problem, because the vaginal opening is flexible, and is only partially covered by the hymen. The opening that allows menstrual fluid out, also allows a tampon to be inserted. Please note that tampons do not affect virginity. A virgin is someone who has not had sexual intercourse.
Over the years, you’ve watched your child grow and go through one change after another. But puberty is different. It’s a time that can be as trying for parents as it is for young teens.
Only yesterday, it seems, your daughter begged for bedtime stories and goodnight kisses. Now, she’d rather have teen magazines and time alone. And her friends’ opinions seem to count a lot more than yours.
Like many parents, you may be a bit shaken at the thought of your child growing up and becoming more independent. But even as she questions your ideas, your daughter still cares about what you think and say. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open during this challenging age.
You can help your daughter feel good about the changes she’s experiencing by being informed and being available to answer her questions. Most young teens first learn about menstruation from their mothers. And many mothers have contacted us at Tampax for advice. We’d like to help you feel more confident in your ability to understand and educate your child.
However good your relationship with your daughter may be, puberty is almost certain to bring arguments and pouting — it’s like that in all families. You may find that your daughter starts to want time alone, and may suddenly seem to be blocking you out. Closed doors and brooding silences may be irritating, but making an issue of things like this will only make matters worse. Even when she questions your ideas, your daughter still cares about what you think and say, so just relax and allow her more space. If your relationship was good before, this phase will almost certainly pass.
If you and your daughter can keep the habit of sitting down and having a good talk it will be easier to broach sensitive topics like menstruation and body changes. If you feel, though, that it would be too embarrassing to talk with her about these things, why not try to find a female relative or friend who is willing to talk to her.
Glossary of terms
Here’s a handy list of terms that might come up during your talk.
Anus. Opening in the body through which solid wastes are excreted.
Cervix. The lower portion, or neck, of the uterus, which protrudes into the vagina.
Ejaculation. The release of semen from the penis.
Endometrium. The mucous membrane lining of the uterus designed to nourish a developing fetus. The endometrium is shed during menstruation.
Erection. Filling of the penis with blood, causing it to become stiff and to stand away from the body.
Estrogen. Hormone that stimulates the development of female secondary sex characteristics.
Fallopian tube. Passageway through which an ovum travels from the ovary to the uterus.
Fertilization. Union of an ovum and a sperm.
Heredity. Genetic transmission of traits from one generation to the next.
Hormones. Chemical substances released by glands into the bloodstream, which cause changes in other areas of the body.
Hymen. A flexible membrane partially covering the opening of the vagina.
Hypothalamus. Area of the brain that controls the pituitary gland.
Labia. Folds of skin, or “lips,” that protect the vaginal opening.
Menstrual cycle. An ongoing process that prepares the female reproductive system for possible pregnancy.
Menstruation. The shedding of the endometrium, or lining of the uterus, which occurs approximately once a month.
Ova. Female sex cells, or “eggs”.
Ovulation. Release of a mature ovum from the ovary.
Ovaries. Female reproductive glands where ova are stored; located on either side of the uterus.
Penis. The male sexual organ.
Pituitary gland. A small gland attached to the brain that releases hormones affecting body growth and development of the reproductive system.
Progesterone. The hormone produced when an ovum is released by the ovaries; responsible for maintaining the uterine lining.
Prostate gland. A male gland that produces a fluid which, along with sperm, is one of the components of semen.
Puberty. Stage in life at which an individual becomes capable of sexual reproduction.
Scrotum. Soft, external sac which holds the testicles; located near the base of the penis.
Semen. Thick, whitish fluid containing sperm.
Seminal vesicle. Male glands that produce a fluid designed to make sperm more mobile; a component of semen.
Sperm. Male sex cells.
Testicles. (Testes) The two reproductive glands that produce sperm and testosterone.
Testosterone. A hormone produced by the testes.
Urethra. The passageway from the bladder through which urine leaves the body. In the male, semen also travels through the urethra.
Uterus. A hollow, muscular, pear-shaped organ where the fertilized ovum develops during pregnancy.
Vagina. A passageway leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body, also called the birth canal.
Vas deferens. Tubes through which sperm travel from the testicles to the urethra.
Virgin. A person who has not had sexual intercourse.
Vulva. The external genitalia or outer part of the female sex organs.
Zygote A cell produced by the union of a sperm and egg.