Have you had the puberty talk with your daughter? Luckily for our daughters, we now know that having one talk – like what happened when we were kids – doesn’t really work. Today it is all about having lots of little conversations about puberty that are repeated over a long time.
When should you start the puberty talk with your daughter? The sooner you start talking the better!
In an ideal world, you should start talking before she starts to notice any changes to her body. By changes, I mean things like the start of pubic or underarm hair, the development of breasts, her first period, growing taller and wider, body odour and sweating, sexy feelings, mood changes, and more. And these changes can start happening anywhere from the age of 8.
You can learn more about what signs to look out for in girls here.
So basically, anytime from the age of 8 or 9 is a good time to start talking to your daughter about puberty in a way that prepares her for the forthcoming changes.
You’ll find more information about puberty in my Puberty 101 page.
You can start talking to kids about puberty from a young age. By talking when they are younger, you are gently introducing the concept to them that one day their body will start to change from being a child’s body to an adult body. Kids as young as three or four will have no trouble understanding this concept. They won’t really understand why (or even want to know why), but they will accept it as just another thing that will one day happen to them. They will start to see puberty as being a normal thing that happens to everyone, which is a good thing!
Sometimes it can feel as if there are more reasons not to talk about puberty than there are to talk.
What if you say too much and overwhelm her? What if you say too little and misinform her? Do girls need to understand puberty differently than boys? How do you talk without embarrassing her or yourself? What if she’s uninterested or walks away whilst you are talking?
You’re not alone as most parents have the same doubts. They wonder whether talking to their daughter is the right thing to do.
Well, I’m telling you that it is the right thing to do. By having the puberty talk with your daughter, she’ll be better equipped to deal with the changes that are happening to them. Which means that she is more likely to find puberty a breeze instead of a hurricane!
Plus by having the puberty with your daughter, you’re actually letting her know that she can turn to you for support, guidance and information that she will need during this important stage of her life.
Your daughter needs to know about the changes – physical, emotional and social – that will be happening to her.
So she needs to know about the physical changes, like pubic hair, breasts, vaginal discharge and menstruation (menstrual period). Getting her period means that she will now be fertile, which means that she could become a mum if she has unprotected sexual intercourse with a boy.
She also needs to know that she might start to have sexy thoughts or feelings and that she may start to think about some boys (or girls) in a more romantic way. She may start to masturbate more often or for the first time. Puberty is the time when kids start to see sex as something that they will someday want to do. So don’t forget to tell her that having sex with someone is a big responsibility and that she doesn’t need to express her sexual feelings in this way (just yet). This is also a great time to start talking about what sexual behaviours and attitudes are okay, and not okay, in your family.
Don’t forget to let her know that she is normal, and that her friends are going through puberty as well. During puberty, there are a lot of changes happening to her body, brain and emotions that can make her feel different. So make sure she knows that she can always come and talk to you about anything. No matter how embarrassing it might be!
Today, we talk about puberty differently to how our parents talked to us about it. We now know that having one big talk doesn’t work. And that kids learn best by having lots of small frequent conversations that you keep on repeating. You start off with the basics and slowly keep on adding more details as your daughter gets older and more interested in the topic. Try to talk about the changes that are happening now as well as the ones to come.
Kids are usually only interested in learning about stuff that is relevant. So you can tell them about sexually transmitted infections when they are 10 or 11, but they won’t be interested in the details until it is relevant ie when they are ready to start thinking about having sex themselves.
It is the same for us parents! You probably had no interest in schools until your child was finally old enough to start going to school! And then, all of a sudden, it became a topic that you needed to learn about. Our kids are the same.
You’ll find some tips on how to talk, in the Parent Tipsheet, listed at the bottom of this page.
So as well as talking to your daughter in an everyday way about puberty, you can also look at buying some books for her to read. You will find some fantastic books for boys on puberty here.
Yes, she does need to know that boys go through puberty, and what some of their changes will be. Most of the changes for boys are the same but some, like erections and wet dreams, are different.
When you take an everyday approach where your daughter will see puberty as a normal part of growing up, it is helpful if both parents can talk to her about it. This way she knows that she can come to either of you with any questions or concerns that she may have about her changing body.
Some girls are comfortable talking about their changing body with their father, but some aren’t. Let your daughter guide you as to what she is and isn’t comfortable with. If you get the sense that she isn’t comfortable, try to involve a woman that she trusts, such as an aunt, an older cousin, or a family friend in the conversation.
You can find further information about puberty here. You’ll find some short educational videos, other blogposts on puberty and some age-specific recommendations for puberty books for girls.
There are many other resources available for having the puberty talk with your daughter on this page as well.
If you get stuck and feel that you need some extra support with talking to your daughter about puberty, then my new book, Girl Puberty – How to talk about puberty and sex with your tween girl, may be helpful.
It was written to help parents ie you to have the puberty talk with your daughter. It will tell you everything you need to discuss and how to start talking about it.