When my daughter turned 9, I decided to have ‘the talk’ with her. My mom had not talked to me about the emotional or physical changes that I was going to have to deal with and I didn’t want my daughter to be ignorant of what was to come. Her best friend’s mom had already discussed things with her. My daughter came back from school one day full of questions, giggles and some bewilderment in her eyes. I knew it was time!
So we sat down and had a long chat.
I explained to her about the physical changes that she would experience. I had been preparing for this day and I had a book recommendation from a friend. It’s called Just for Girls. There is one for boys as well – Just For Boys. I would recommend this to every mother whose kid – boy or girl- is in the pre-puberty or puberty phase. It answers a lot of questions in a simple manner.
I could see she was embarrassed. But I wanted her to know that it’s absolutely normal and that she should not feel odd or shy when she sees her body going through these stages.
What did she want to know?
- What’s happening to my body? Would I need to wear a bra like you? Isn’t it tight? So I explained to her that we would start off with a training bra, which was more like a short slip. Marks and Spencer’s and H&M have the best training bras in the market. They’re soft, the elastic doesn’t pinch and comes in a variety of pretty colours. My daughter found Jockey to be tight and uncomfortable.
- Why do I suddenly have hair down there? She had obviously been noticing the physical developments going on in her body. I showed her a picture of the female human body and told her that her body was going through changes for a time when she might have a baby later in her life. Her body hair had become thicker and she was starting underarm hair growth. These are the first signs of puberty. She seemed more at ease when I told her that boys and girls both go through these changes and it’s a natural phenomenon.
- Menstruation: I started mine very early and the onset is supposed to be hereditary. When I started speaking to her about menstruation, her face registered shock. Moms, we know just how much you can see your little girl growing up in that moment, but please persevere. I could see she was scared. I explained all I could about sanitary pads, menstrual cramps, and personal hygiene. Truth be told, she seemed pretty grossed out at the thought of it. I mean, think about it! I didn’t blame her. I just didn’t want her being unprepared. She now carries a sanitary napkin and an extra underwear in her school bag and she knows I am only a phone call away when she needs me.
- I was amused to see that she and her friends had noticed that the boys in the class were starting to look and sound slightly odd. So I explained to her that boys have hormonal changes just like girls – facial hair, voice cracks, shoulders and chest get bigger to name a few. Girls mature faster than boys and I wanted her to understand that it’s ok to feel and look different and that everyone around her was dealing with it in some form.
- Acne: My baby girl with the soft flawless skin suddenly had little eruptions on her nose and she wasn’t happy about it. Sudden hormonal changes cause breakouts of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads.
- She had also developed a pretty strong body odour and her over-sensitive nose didn’t help. She was worried that her friends would make fun of her! When kids are going through puberty, the sweat glands become over-active and release chemicals into the sweat which makes it pretty potent. So off to the chemist we went where we bought a roll-on anti-perspirant. If you’re wondering whether you should get a deodorant or an anti-perspirant – opt for the latter.
You may also like: Dr Vandita Dubey on puberty, gender bias, and sexual abuse.
This is an uncomfortable topic to discuss with your kids but here is what worked for me:
- Kids develop a sense of independence very early in their lives. During their tweens, the term ‘mind of their own’ takes on a totally different meaning. I can see the changes in my daughter’s behaviour already. So I knew that if I wanted her to come to me with something important I had to earn her trust and let her know I am open to listening.
- I have had to rethink my discipline strategy. I want her to see my husband and me as her go-to people. There will be a lot of eye-rolling and ‘whatever’ but the important thing to remember is not to react to this.
- Puberty can be a very confusing time for tweens. So make sure you carve out some time to spend with your pre-pubescent child. My daughter and I bond over books – Mallory Towers, Famous Five and our favourite the Faraway Tree.
- Understand that you have to say less and listen more. It really works!
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