Every mom knows it's coming, but likely — with echos of awkward conversations and embarrassment ringing in her mind from her own childhood — puts it off until absolutely necessary. It's one of "the talks" that every parent dreads, but knows they have to have. Whether you have a toddler or a preteen, approaching the subject of puberty, sex, and body image is touchy (to say the least). Although there are many ways to broach the topic, being prepared with a few of the words you should never use when talking to your daughter about puberty can be way more helpful than you'd expect.
In an interview with Romper, child therapist Maureen Healy, expert on sensitive children and kid's health and happiness, noted that puberty is an "extremely sensitive subject which needs to be handled with care" and that the experience "sets a child up for how they feel about their self-image, bodies, and ultimately potential sexual experiences whether it's natural and healthy or something else." No pressure, right?
In fact, parents can stress so much about this period of their child's life that Healy recommends that they follow a script of what to and what not to say when it comes to having "the talk" about a girl's changing body, the start of her period, and more.
Of course, as Kids Health recommended, when it doubt, it's best just to be open and honest when your daughter has questions about sex, menstruation, and all of the other joys of becoming a woman. But, having a framework of words (and overall mindset) to avoid when you bring up your daughter's changing body will help more than anything else. All in all, the fact that you're ready to be there for your daughter during this change will speak more loudly than anything you do or don't say.
Another expert in the field of women empowerment and raising confident girls, Melody Pourmoradi, CEC, AADP, founder of The GiRLiFE Empowerment Series and life coach, suggested that one of the most important ways mothers can help their daughters through puberty is to simply avoid self-depreciating language.
Puberty is a very trying time for a young girl as there are changes taking place in her body that she may or may not feel comfortable with. Modeling a healthy relationship with your yourself will set your daughter up to also find ways to love her body — even when it is changing and at times unrecognizable to her.
She notes that moms should always consider whether the words she uses to describe herself are words that she'd want to hear her daughter use about her body. Empowering language can change your daughter's expectations.
While your self-deprecating humor might get you some good laughs usually, it's best to be a little more sensitive when addressing these changes with your daughter, especially since she's facing them for the first time.
Words That Compare
As important as your own self-image is to consider, Pourmoradi also points out that moms should never compare their daughter's progress to that of anyone else's, either out loud or internally. "As we all know, every girl develops at a different age and in a different way," she says, "Avoid comparing her stage of development to that of her older sister's, her cousin's, her BFF or even your own. Instead, meet her where she is at and reassure her that every change and transformation is happening as it should."
Although, as any woman knows, getting your period for the first time (or any time for that matter) can feel like a "curse," as a mother, it's important to model behavior that shows your daughter that menstruation is a sign of maturing, not of inconvenience.
Pourmoradi wisely notes that, "yes, while getting your period is at times uncomfortable and inconvenient, it is important the girls know that it serves as a cleansing for their body and also provides them with the great privilege of becoming a mother if they should choose it to be part of their path."
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