How to Talk to Your 11-Year-Old About Puberty

Feb 25, 2020

Hi, everyone! This is Maria Sanders, your Licensed Social Worker, and PCI Certified Parent Coach®. I have a question that came through in one of the parent groups that I’m in so I thought I would answer it here and that way I can use it for a greater audience.

So, here is what the parent said, “I’m dreading the fact that my daughter is quickly approaching puberty. She will be 11 years old this summer. I feel so bad and almost guilty that she’ll be getting her period soon. Sadly, I don’t remember all that I went through in those days and how to prepare her for what’s to come. We’d love to hear from other moms who have been through the same situation.”

Helping Explain Puberty to Your Child

First, I want to say I’m so glad that this parent reached out because there’s a ton of us moms, dads, and caregivers that have definitely been through this. The thing that caught my eye in this post was a couple of things. The first one was, “I am dreading…” So just that word sounds so challenging for the parent. And what I want this parent to do is just take a deep breath and figure out what is it that you’re dreading? What part of the conversation are you dreading, because if we’re afraid that we’re going to say the wrong thing and that’s why we’re dreading having this conversation with our daughter, then it’s a good idea to get informed. That way we can feel empowered and confident to have this conversation, and how do we get informed? Reading books!

Different Levels of Books for Puberty

There are three different levels of this book that I bought for my own children: It’s Not the Stork! . There’s one for kids of really young ages like four years old. The one we have is for ages seven and up and then there’s one for 11 and up, and it’s just a really beautiful, well-scripted book. What’s awesome is that they do the talking so if we don’t feel confident about talking about different subject areas like sex and babies and sperm, the book does a great job for us. I recommend The Care & Keeping of You (American Girl) too, and it’s a good idea that we read these books first so that we can become familiar with them and also anticipate some of the questions that might arise and how we might answer it. And if a question arises that we don’t know the answer to, that’s okay. We can say, “You know what? I’m not really sure about that. Let me do some digging around or let me do some research or let me get back to you on that.” We don’t have to answer the questions right away.  The other great benefit of a book is potentially looking through the book together and learning right alongside your daughter.  Letting her know that you never had this opportunity opens you up and shows that you’re learning too. 

Tackling the Period Problem

The other part about this message, “I feel so bad and almost guilty that she’ll be getting her period soon.” So we all have different experiences, whether it’s getting periods, death, the birth of a new baby, whatever it is, but these are our experiences so my guess is that maybe, just maybe that this parent might have not had a great experience. When she first got her period maybe she wasn’t well supported. Maybe it was traumatic in some way maybe she was in some area publicly with other people.

And so, this parent’s framework of what that looks like, is bad and that’s why she feels so bad and guilty that her daughter will be getting her period soon. Getting your period is just something natural that happens. That being said, just because it is “normal” does not mean we experienced it with ease or comfort. So, where is this guilt and bad feeling coming from? Take some time to recognize this is your own experience and now you have an opportunity now to provide your daughter with an experience that you would have liked to have.

So, like I said maybe this parent was not well supported. When it came time for her to have her period, maybe her mom or her dad or whoever the caregiver was wasn’t 100% there. Now, this mom has a wonderful opportunity to say, “You know what? That didn’t work well for me and now I have this weird feeling about puberty and periods and everything, so I’m going to reframe it so that I can give to my daughter.” This is an opportunity for the parent to provide an atmosphere where her daughter feels safe and feels heard when it comes to whatever question she has with regards to puberty.

Find Your Support

Because the mom says, “I don’t even remember all that I went through in those days, so I don’t even know how to prepare her for the situation of what’s to come.” Again, going back to books is great. I love that this mom wrote to the admin of this group so that she could get some guidance because leaning on your friends and looking for support is a great tool to start getting ideas. There are so many books and even products that are out there to help guide us and make this a much more comfortable experience than we likely had when we were kids. We don’t have to do this alone and we don’t have to do it in fear.

Start having the conversation around correct names for body parts, the importance of boundaries early when your kids are as young as two years old. This will get you started on the right path.  If we start young then it doesn’t build up to be the “BIG CONVERSATION”.  We’re having conversations, little by little, over the years, talking about bras, growing hair, babies, pregnancy and what sperm does. That way, it doesn’t feel like, “Oh my gosh, puberty hit! I have to talk about everything!”

So, I hope a few of those tips were helpful. To the mom who posted this, feel free to reach out to me if you want to chat some more about this or any other parent who wants to talk any more about this, let me know.

Finally, don’t forget to join me in Philly for the Revolutionizing Parenthood Conference!

I’ll be speaking at this amazing conference on April 24-25th 2020 along with Dr.Shefali Tsabary the renowned conscious parenting change-maker and 15+ of my talented parent coaching colleagues.