When should a mother have ‘the talk’ with her daughter?
As I did not grow up with my mother, I rarely had a chance to speak to anyone about the numerous body changes I was going through as a young girl. The few chances I would get to talk to my female teachers, I would be left with more questions than answers. I realized then the importance of mothers speaking to their daughters and getting them ready for the times ahead.
Experts say a mother should ideally start talking to their daughter about body changes from a young age and continue the conversation as the child grows. They recommend the following:
3-5 years: Here, experts say, a mother should begin by teaching their child the proper names for body parts, including genitals. This sets the foundation for open communication, not only with their parents but also others especially those who might want to take advantage of their innocence. For example, teach your child that their private parts are just that and no one else should see, let alone touch them.
6-8 years: At this age, a parent should start discussing the basics of puberty. Tell your child that as they grow, their bodies change and it is a natural process that should not bother them at all. Keep it simple and age-appropriate.
9-11 years: As your daughter approaches puberty, provide more detailed information about the physical and emotional changes that may occur during puberty. Talk about menstruation, breast development, and body hair. Emphasize that these changes are normal and happen to every girl and encourage them to always ask you or another person they trust such as a teacher if they have any questions.
11-14 years: Continue the conversation, discussing topics such as hygiene, menstrual hygiene, and the emotional aspects of puberty. Encourage questions and reassure your daughter that these changes are a part of growing up.
15+ years: By this age, most girls have started their periods and are more aware of their bodies. Continue to support and provide information about sexual health and other aspects they might be facing but do not understand. Also, address body image and self-esteem issues that may arise.
Throughout childhood and adolescence, maintain an open and non-judgmental line of communication. And encourage your daughter to come to you with any questions or concerns about her body. Be a reliable source of information, and if you don’t know the answer, research it together or seek advice from a healthcare professional.
Remember that every child is different, and the timing and depth of these conversations may vary based on your daughter’s maturity level and curiosity. The key is to create an environment where she feels comfortable discussing these topics and seeking your guidance.
Additionally, it is important to emphasize body positivity, self-acceptance, and healthy relationships throughout these discussions. Promote a positive self-image and teach her to respect her body and the bodies of others.
By VKN, proud mother of three