Q: How can I help prepare my daughter for the physical, emotional and psychological changes that accompany the onset of adolescence?
A: It's important to understand the difference between the kind of conversation you're contemplating and mere sex education. As your girl approaches puberty, you're going to have to shift gears from talking about sex in general to more specific briefings on the subject of her own sexuality.
Whether you make this a specific discussion or include it as part of a more extensive explanation of what lies ahead during the adolescent years, you will want your daughter to be ready for the physical changes that are about to take place.
Girls need to know about breast development, new hair growth and the reproductive cycle. The first visible sign of puberty in girls is the development of breast buds, which usually appear about two years before the first menstrual period.
Each breast bud is a small, flat, firm button-like nodule that develops directly under the areola (the pigmented area that surrounds the nipple). This tissue eventually softens as the breasts enlarge. Occasionally a bud will develop on one side before the other.
As the breasts continue to develop, hair begins to grow under the arms, on the legs and in the genital area. The contour of the hips becomes fuller, and the internal reproductive organs grow and mature. Glands within the vagina produce a clear or milky secretion, which may appear several months before the onset of menstrual bleeding.
The first menstrual period (or menarche) should be viewed in a positive light, as a passage into adulthood rather than a burden or a "curse of women."
Some parents honor the occasion by taking their daughter to dinner at a nice restaurant or presenting her with a special gift. This event is usually the final stage of pubertal development. If you and your daughter stay in communication about the changes she is experiencing, you can usually anticipate and discuss what she can do if her first period begins when she's away from home.
At some point (probably more than once) during these years, you will need to deal with the subject of masturbation. As children approach adolescence, you will have to make a judgment call on what to say about the significance of self-stimulation after puberty arrives.
Your approach to this issue will need to be both tactful and realistic. Bottom line: masturbation should not play a major role in your daughter's life, either as a source of relentless guilt or as a frequent and persistent habit that may displace healthy sexual relations in the future.
It's also important to discuss with your daughter her increasing interest in the opposite sex. She'll also need to be prepared to deal with attention from boys if and when it occurs.
This is an important time to review specific guidelines, and perhaps a little street wisdom about relationships, affectionate touching, the progressive nature of sexual contact and the importance of saving sex for marriage.
Ideally, you should plan on having a series of conversations with your prepubescent girl, perhaps at age nine or ten.
Some parents plan a special weekend away from home in order to have some undistracted, one-on-one time during which these discussions can take place.
If you are a single dad who feels uncomfortable discussing these matters with your daughter, consider seeking help from an adult female who not only shares your values but has enough rapport to talk with her about these topics.
This article was published with permission from Focus on the Family Malaysia.
If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources at family.org.my.
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