When I chat with other moms who are raising daughters, there is one thing that really unites us: we’re worried about puberty. How will we navigate the mood swings and the body changes– and the conversations?? Even those of us who are very comfortable charting and knowing our own menstrual cycles may freeze when it comes to introducing these ideas to our children. We want to instill the right values. We want to be accurate and helpful with what we tell them. We don’t want to push certain conversations too early.
I’ve been a Natural Family Planning instructor for over eight years now, so when it came time to teach my daughters about periods, I knew I had the right info: I just wasn’t sure how to present it. As a result, I now have a menarche (the onset of a girl’s first period) course called “Cycle Prep” which parents and daughters can experience from the comfort of their home, at their own pace, supplementing with other conversations as they see fit.
Today, I’d like to offer some quick advice to my fellow parents who are thinking about these conversations. Based on my experience with teaching cycle education, here are my suggestions for ways to talk with your daughters about menarche.
6 Tips For Talking To Your Daughter About Puberty
- Be Body-Positive, Starting With Yourself! Our Catholic Faith insists that bodies are an important part of our existence as human beings! God became Man in a human body. All physical things are created by our Loving God. We don’t want to give our children the impression that our bodies are inherently dirty or evil, but these conversations can be tricky if we don’t feel positive about our own bodies and cycles. I suggest that we moms begin by framing your own positive thoughts about menstrual cycles: My body is good. Producing a menstrual cycle is hard work! It is important work. Even if my cycles are totally wonky, I recognize and honor the good work my body does. If we do this for ourselves, it will be more natural to pass it along to our children.
- Talk Early, Talk Often: Adults know that puberty, cycles, and sex are all inter-connected, so we tend to think of them as one conversation. But we didn’t feel the need to explain the complexities of the digestive system and the dangers of anorexia when they were potty training, right? So there is no reason we have to pressure ourselves to put everything into a single conversation when it comes to body literacy. Our kids will be curious about different aspects of their bodies, or what they observe us doing with our bodies, to varying degrees at different times. Respond to their current questions, and don’t worry if you haven’t said EVERYTHING you wanted to say. There will be more conversations down the road.
- Be Accurate: Sometimes we shy away from being accurate because we either think that kids won’t understand, or we don’t want them to understand. But speaking in veiled language will likely just confuse our children, and lead to potential misunderstandings. I suggest parents use accurate terminology (practice out loud before talking to them if you have a hard time using the words!) and give them facts as best you can. We can’t help our children build a deeper value system around their bodies if they don’t even know the biology.
- Avoid Telling Her What To Feel: In an effort to be positive, we may inadvertently step out of line and tell our daughters they need to feel a certain way about periods: You should feel excited. You should be happy! You should be proud. Unfortunately, emotions don’t work that way. We will feel what we feel, and for many girls puberty is not a naturally positive-vibe sort of time. This is why giving her body-positive language is so important: because even if she feels crummy or embarrassed about her changing body, she will know that her body is good and it’s doing important work. She at least has a positive rational framework to counteract any negative emotions.
- Enlist Back-Up!: Your parental voice is THE MOST IMPORTANT voice for her, but you can also ensure that she gets the same messages of support and care from other people as well. Talk to your mom friends to make sure their daughters are getting similar messages, or check out online programs (like Cycle Prep!) which will allow your daughter to hear the same messages and information from someone who is an expert in the materials– preferably while she is sitting with you so she can ask questions!
- Observe and Listen: We parents shouldn’t be doing all the talking. We can observe how our daughter naturally feels or acts around certain topics (Is she body-shy, even with you? Or does she tend to ask a lot of questions?). Let her take the lead when it comes to the tone of your conversations: respect her space and respect her pace. Some girls will need to take it slow, but others will be ready to learn about body changes sooner than you may expect! As parents, we honor our children when we respond in charity and positivity to their unique developmental timeline.
This isn’t to say these conversations will come easily! And I have learned to embrace the fact that I will never be a perfect mom. But the most important thing I want my daughters to know is that I love them unconditionally, I am here to help them, and they can always talk with me about what is going on. And when I don’t feel like I’ve done that task well, I lift up a prayer to two of my favorite mom saints: Margaret of Scotland and Zelie Martin. These ladies know a thing or two about raising girls– and I’m sure they are rooting for us.
More Catholic Resources To Help
Direct link to purchase Cycle Prep: https://pearlandthistle.teachable.com/p/cycle-prep/
Next Cycle Prep Info Session: April 21st, 8 PM
Is Cycle Prep the right fit for you and your daughter? Come to my free info session to find out– and bring some friends with you! I’ll be coming in live via Zoom to give an overview of the program, complete with previews of some content and graphics. I’ll also chat with attendees about the values I have as a parent and educator which have shaped the creation of this course!
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