By: Vicki Bohling
When Gaby was 10, she was at that glorious stage of girlness…strong, confident, and ready to stand toe-to-toe with any boy. She was lanky and lean and seemed far from needing a bra, so I was surprised when she told me she had noticed a weird little bump on her left breast. Thinking that odd, I made an appointment with our pediatrician. The doc took a quick look and said, “No need to worry – it’s just a breast bud.” Which were the exact words she used with my husband when she called him from the car. I couldn’t see his face, but I’m pretty sure I would have seen a mix of relief and tenderness and YIKES!
Puberty had rolled along pretty smoothly with our son (though I cried the first time he shaved), but the whole coming of age thing with a girl was a new deal. Looking back, there were sweet moments…like the time Gaby saw me packing some tampons in a suitcase shortly after we had talked about menstruation, and she innocently exclaimed, “You have your period? Congratulations!” (We still laugh about that one.) And there were surprises – like when she shaved her legs for the first time at church camp by taking a hit off another girl’s razor…not exactly the way I had played it out in my mama mind.
From all that we lived and learned during those years, here are a handful of tips that helped us get through our daughter's puberty years:
1. Information is power. Credible studies show that kids who receive solid information about sex and sexuality from their parents end up being less promiscuous than those who don't (and isn’t that what we’re all secretly worried about?). Sooner rather than later, start sharing information (I prefer drizzling versus dumping) about the changes she can expect in her body as coolly and casually as you can. Get a hold of a good book for support. And if you’re nervous or embarrassed, admit to it – she’ll love you that much more for it.[Related: Encouraging Abstinence]
2. Protect her childhood. A while back I was walking by the girls clothing section in a popular retail store with a family friend who is in her mid-20’s. Her casual observation stuck with me, “Since when did the girls’ clothes just become miniature versions of what women wear?” Just because a clothing manufacturer (or makeup retailer or magazine publisher) is marketing its goods to your daughter’s age group, it doesn’t mean you have to buy them. With all the shiny new body parts that come with puberty (kinda cruel how nature doles out the equipment before we’re completely ready to use it), she’ll likely push hard to look and act older, but don’t be deceived – her brain structure is still very much young girl.
3. Swing with the moods.Female hormones often get an unfair rap, but during puberty they truly are in a state of disarray. Along with physical changes, expect your daughter’s emotional state to shift along with her fluctuating body chemistry. One day when Gaby was in a dark cloud of a mood I said something like, “Wow, you’re really not yourself today.” Her comeback: “It’s not me, Mom, it’s my evil twin, Greta.” The alter ego stuck, and for awhile after, “Greta” became a code word that allowed us to talk about intense moments with humor and a little distance. “I’m missing Gaby today…do you know when she’s coming back?” Puberty is tough, but with a little grace (and a little space) you and your daughter will come through it all just fine.
Do you have a son? Check out my fellow blogger, Steve Palmer's tips for dealing with boys and puberty here._________________________________________________________________________