Talking About Puberty
Talking about puberty with a daughter
By Clarice J. Kestenbaum, M.D.
Q: My daughter is going through puberty. I know that she knows what it is, and that she is going through it, but she refuses to tell me. I want to help, but I can't without her telling me. What can I do?
A: The onset of puberty for both boys and girls can be difficult, even traumatic for many children. It helps if prepubertal children have teenage siblings, but often they must rely on peers as ignorant as they are for information. Many girls hide the fact that they are developing breasts and pubic hair, and some don't even tell their mothers about the first menstrual period. Even if girls have learned about their bodily changes from science classes, books or lectures, a profound ignorance about their bodies is not uncommon.
Your daughter may believe that growing up means that she can no longer remain a little girl who enjoys childhood games and dolls. She may feel she can no longer ask for maternal affection, hugs, and nighttime rituals. She may have heard stories about physical discomfort from menstruation, such as cramps or back pain.
The onset of menstruation has a deep significance for a girl. As a symbol of sexual maturity, it causes her to imagine her potential role as a sexual partner, a wife and a mother. I think you need to spend some private time with your daughter. Get her some books for teenagers on the subject of puberty and read them together. Buy her some feminine supplies and show her how to use them. Even if your daughter resists your efforts, try to speak with her and give her the materials whether or not she tells you about her concerns. It is most important to welcome the change in her and show her the universality and normality of becoming a young woman.