Just before my ninth birthday, my mum made me feel really special by telling me that she had something very important to discuss with me when I turned nine. I can remember her sitting me down when there was no one else around (a rare occurrence in our house!) and explaining puberty to me. She discussed periods and body changes and what I could expect. The one thing that we didn’t speak about at that stage was sex. It meant that I had a great, open relationship with my mum. She went on to explain sex in a bit more detail when I was about 11. From then on I was able to speak to her about anything involving puberty and sex and never felt uncomfortable about it. I knew when Grace was much younger that I would want her to feel the same and be able to have the same relationship with me.
One of the things I have done since Grace was very little was to be honest with her. Living as a single parent up until Grace was 4 years old meant that she regularly came to the toilet with me. I never hid anything from her and she did start to notice when I had a period. I told her that ladies bled every month and that it didn’t hurt apart from a bit of a tummy ache. This meant that I knew she wouldn’t be too scared when the time came to talk about it properly. More importantly, I didn’t lie to her so it meant that she would trust me.
Last week I ordered an Usborne book from Amazon called ‘What is Happening to Me?’. It was the girls edition, costs £3.99 and is full of facts about puberty. It covers so many things including breasts, how they grow and how to measure for bras, periods, how they happen and the difference between sanitary towels and tampons as well as learning about mood swings and spots. The last section is about boys and the changes they go through – to me it shows Grace that girls are not the only people going through changes at this confusing time. I really like the way it is presented – it is illustrated beautifully and is easy to read.
Grace has regularly been discussing with us what she has learned ever since. Every so often she repeats what she has remembered and asks me questions. One of the things she was really worried about was starting her period at school in the middle of a classroom. She told me that she wanted to start wearing a liner in her pants just in case. I explained to her that she wouldn’t need to worry and would be likely to get a warning – either a stomach cramp or a small amount of blood. She would be able to carry an individually wrapped sanitary towel in her bag and if it was a real emergency she would be able to use toilet paper. She has told me that she would like to start doing this – just in case.
On Saturday evening, I nipped out to get a takeaway and left Grace and Ross sitting on the sofa about to watch some wrestling. When I returned they hadn’t started their program and were immersed in a conversation so I went into the kitchen and left them to it. Later, Ross explained to me that Grace had asked him to be patient with her as she starts to go through puberty because she is going to have mood swings and find things difficult. Ross said that he understood and that she would probably call him lots of names, tell him that he wasn’t her real dad and stomp off to her room and slam the door. Grace thought about this for a moment and then said that she would try hard not to do this but if she did, she is very, very sorry and she wouldn’t mean it.
One of the things that Ross did say to her was that he did not really understand about periods and how they worked and, as a result, mum would be a far better person to discuss this with. Grace turned to him and said ‘I am so lucky to be able to talk to my mum about all of this and that she understands. I feel sad for the girls who can’t’.
I am so pleased to hear this and it is thanks to my mum that I am able to apply the lessons I learned from her to my daughter and not feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about speaking to her about the facts of life.
How you decided when will you start discussing puberty with your children?
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