In my 16 years mothering four daughters, there have been a handful of dreaded parenting milestones: potty training, your changing body talk, and drivers ed.
Everything else, I’m able to jump right it. Sleep through the night training—no problem! Transitioning to full day school—I embrace it! The first school trip alone on a plane—nervous, but able to let them go. Vaping, alcohol and drugs, sexual assault awareness and how to use social media and still be able to get a job in 10 years, I am your go-to mom, ask away.
I’ve been through some tough parenting issues and experiences. I can handle many situations and topics. And as a clinical psychologist, part of it comes from my training and experience; I’ve worked with adolescents for 20 years. I am very comfortable talking about a lot of things that would make many parents blush.
But for some reason, when it comes to my children, I have a few dreaded parenting moments. My Achilles heel is the “Your Changing Body Talk”. Perhaps with twins as my oldest, there is an intensity having to go through every rite of passage not once, but twice. It’s more than double the trouble; it’s double the stress! And with four daughters, the odds seem stacked against me from the get-go for any of these conversations—the first time is either a 50 percent success or failure rate in one shot.
But really, the reason why I am so apprehensive about the “Your Changing Body Talk” is that childhood is so darn short. The world seems so overwhelming at times that I want to keep my daughters in a bubble of childhood for as long as I can.
Kind of like keeping the magical moments of believing in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, mermaids, fairies, and all the awe and wonder the world has to offer seems incongruous with periods, bras, deodorant, unwanted hair on legs, underarms and other places.
I mean how can you really embrace Santa and the Tooth Fairy when you’re getting your period?
The “Your Changing Body Talk” is the responsible thing to do as a parent. And to keep it natural and part of normal development, shared in an open and non-shaming way is so very important. We as parents are the first teachers of this topic; how we present puberty to our children, matters. It’s embracing body positivity, personal strengths, and having patience for our children (and ourselves) as we begin one of many conversations between child and parent during the long and often stressful journey into adulthood.
Years ago I had the “Your Changing Body Talk” with the twins. Error number one: even assuming I could talk with them together. Less than 10 seconds in, they simultaneously said, “This is super awkward, we don’t want to do this together.”
Of course, I obliged and had “the talk” individually. Once I started, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought. I had a lot of anticipation anxiety, which went away when the conversation started. I felt pretty comfortable; they, not so much. But the most interesting comment came from my daughter Maria when I told her about periods.
She said, “OK, I can deal with that once.”
Curious, I stated, “Do you think you get your period only once?”
“Yes, just once right?” “Um, actually no, you get your period once a month or so.”
Mouth agape and wide-eyed she clarified, “You mean I get my period once a month?!! For how long?”
“On average about once a month for 35 years,” I stated.
Horror on her face she responded, “That’s not fair.”
I get it, sweet girl, I understand it, welcome to grown-up things, whether you want it or not.
The “Your Changing Body Talk” shifts parenting in a whole new direction: acknowledging the hormones, sullen moods and the swing of emotion so intense and real, dare I say irrational at times? And it’s also accepting friends take priority over family (totally normal) and privacy is premier with more shut doors and responses to how was your day with one-word phrases instead of non-stop sharing of details you wonder if they will ever pause to take a breath.
The “Your Changing Body Talk” is the portal from childhood to adolescence and adolescence into young adulthood from which you can never go back. It is a rite of passage for child and parent, not just one talk, but the beginning of many dialogues over a lifetime.
In my family, it’s about time for the “Your Changing Body Talk” once again.
It’s been a while . . . since my first and second time. I joke with the twins, almost 16, I’ve done my part, they can “have the talk” with their sister. I mean, that’s how I learned about puberty through my older sister! So many women from my generation learned about puberty from an older sister or friend!
In all honesty, I’ll be the one to have the talk, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Though having the twins as my allies this time around, does make it feel less awkward.
Wish me luck! The third time is a charm, right?