When to Have the “Changing Body Talk”

I have dragged my readers along as I complained about my husband giving me lingerie for my birthday, raged about finding my voice, laughed about avoiding a deer attack, struggled to lose weight, and shared way too much about my insides.  In the three years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve also taken you with me on my parenting journey as I’ve moved from Play-Doh, night terrors, and big boy beds to sleepovers and bullies on the bus. Now it’s time to enter a new and terrifying territory.

The talks.

WARNING: It’s about to get all kinds of honest up in here.  Hold on tight or jump out of here now.  Still here?  Okay, so here we go…

I have never been secretive about my body when it comes to my children.  I walk around naked at some point just about every day, and my daughter certainly understands that little girls become women who look like some variation of me.  I imagine this must be a terrifying thing for her, but she’s never asked me about it.  And I’ve never talked about it.  The truth is that I have worked very hard to shelter and protect my daughter’s innocence.  This precious gift placed in my care deserves to be raised with intention, each choice weighed carefully.

I also realize that time is ticking away and my child is not going to be a child forever. It seems that she went from a toddler to a second grader in the blink of an eye, and as she looked at me with wide, sparkling eyes last week and talked to me about a boy (good God, a boy), I realized that I will look away and in that moment until I turn back she will be a teenager.  There is so  much that she needs to know, so many careful decisions to make.

So the first talk. The body changing talk.  When is the right time for parents to have this talk with their children?

I surveyed my friends to find out what they think is the right age because honestly, I don’t remember learning about this, at least not until it was too late.  I – brace yourself – got my first period either right before or right after turning ten.  We hadn’t had the lesson yet in school, but I knew from reading Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret that it was coming at some point and that it didn’t mean I was going to die.  I also learned that building your pecs gave you a bigger chest. Thanks, Judy Blume.  I got my bangs trimmed that day.  It was a Sunday and I watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks on ABC while my mom went over the largest supply and variety of feminine products ever assembled in one place.  I tried to focus on Angela Lansbury, not getting the irony at the time of the “Age of Not Believing.”  At some point I remember hearing that my mom bumped into my best friend’s mom at the store and told her.  And I distinctly remember wanting to die in that moment.

So when does this start?  Do I wait until I think the day is approaching and then jump in with a crash course?  Or is this a long series of discussions?

The general consensus seems to be that for many the discussion begins when the questions start.  Little girls talk about these things in school, on the playground, on the bus ride home, and even though I’ve decided to not go there yet, another mom may have already begun sharing information with her daughter, which means my child is going to hear it as well.  The average age shared by most of my friends for the best time to really get into the details is 8. And no matter what age everyone suggested, everyone agreed that being completely honest is the most important part, and that there is no way to ever be completely prepared for when our daughters experience these changes.

I appreciated hearing that some friends talk about the changes occurring in their daughter’s bodies in terms of preparation for motherhood.  My daughter spent her little life as a two year old and much of her three year old days watching her mommy care for her baby brother by nursing him everywhere from the rocking chair to the Target food court, so that is a very natural explanation for her.  Many people also suggested an American Girl book called The Care and Keeping of You as well as setting special time aside to have the discussion such as a mother/daughter day out or a special dinner alone.  The American Academy of Pediatrics also provides resources to discuss puberty with your children.

I think I may survive this stage of parenting. Maybe.  Just don’t make me acknowledge that once I figure out how to get through this with my daughter, I’ve got to admit that I also have to go through this with my son…

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  • Amy we have The Care and Keeping of You book. I bought it for Breanna this spring and it has opened the door for some great talks with her! (like how to really fit and measure for a bra) I think it’s given her an “In” to asking me questions too and that’s great because you know I’ll answer her and not shy away from it. Now that we’ve moved into becoming a woman (for lack of a better term), she has some factual information in her hands and she has me to get her through the things a book just can’t explain better than a mom. I absolutely LOVE The Care and Keeping of You and highly recommend it… and don’t worry! You’ll do great when it comes time to talk, just don’t let the book do it all for you! And boys?? Ugh. Try having the convo with 3 of them! I’ve got one down… just 2 more to go (and as they get older the talks get more interesting! FYI).

    • Oh, Nikki, I can’t even think about the boy discussion. Can I outsource that one to my husband?

  • Yikes! Just Yikes! lol Thank you for going through this before me so I can sit back and read what you have to go through, twice. Thank you for also allowing me to read this but also to be able to wait another 5+ years before I have that talk. Yes, this means you are the experiment here so Thank You.

    • Josh, yesterday when I was the kindergarten parent helper I saw a cubby with the name Olivia on it and almost tweeted you to tell you that the day when Olivia will be off to kindergarten is just right around the corner. It happens way too fast…

  • Are boys and girls getting the same kind of talk around the same ages? I’ve only talked to my son a little bit about the most basic things, he knows no details yet.

    Fortunately, so far the only girls he talks about are the ones that can beat him in a footrace on the playground.

    Kids grow up entirely too quickly for me. I want my son to be an innocent kid as long as he can, but I don’t want him to be a gullible, clueless kid either.

    • My plan is to have the talk with my son when he’s 20. That’s a good plan, yes?

  • Thanks for this post. While “the talks” are a bit down the road for my two year old daughter, I do plan on sharing The Keeping and Caring of You book with my eight year old niece. She’s a “mature” build so I would guess that she has questions.

    Her parents are divorced and my brother (her father) is totally not equipped for these discussions. Yes, she can go to her mom but unfortunately her mom is not her biggest fan and I am not certain she’d get the best advice/explanation from her. For that reason, I will be getting this book for my niece.

    I’ll spend a special day with her and let her know that when she wants to read the book and talk, she can call me up and we’ll have another special “you and me” time. She also has a younger sister so it is something that she can hand down and help her sister with when it’s time.

    Thanks again for sharing – our lil’ girls need all the love, support and positive reinforcement they can get in this world!

    • It’s so wonderful that you can be there for your niece. She’s incredibly lucky to have you!

  • anne

    lol! witty & serious. your writing reminds me of Anna Quindlen. have you read _thinking out loud_? such a gr8 book!

  • Oh my, oh my, oh my. Can’t we just feed them anti-hormones or something?
    I am totally freaked out by the fact that my son is the older one, and he’s way too curious for his own good…he’s already made some vague noises about wanting to know how babies find their way into their mommy’s tummy: “How does the tummy know which daddy is the right one?” Oh geez.
    I’ve actually had these discussions with the kids in middle school classrooms when I was teaching with no problem…but they weren’t my kids!

  • […] little over  year ago I asked readers for their opinions on when to have the changing body talk with my children.  When I began blogging nearly five years ago, my daughter was in pre-school, my […]