It’s A New World For Girls
By Space Coast Daily // December 14, 2011
“It’s a girl.” We hear these words after nine months of waiting and finally delivering our baby, and all the world changes for us.
Suddenly we are faced with a new life, which will grow and develop and live a life that echoes our own. We can’t help but immediately wonder what she will be like, and who she will date or marry.
We project onto this little pink bundle all our dreams and ambitions, our hopes and desires.
Yet, for many of us it becomes harder and harder as that little girl grows up to talk to her, to explain to her all the things she needs to know to live a healthy and fruitful life.
The reasons vary – we’re busy and distracted, it’s embarrassing or a subject we don’t know how to bring up – she’s too young and it is not the right time. There are always reasons – there is always another day.
Following are some facts to work with, some hints on how to give your daughter a good start, and hopefully, some answers to the questions you might have about talking to your daughter.
Quick To Notice Their Anatomy
Little girls, like little boys, are quick to notice their anatomy, and it is a good idea for us to try, using terms they will understand, to explain their “private parts” to them. We can tell them why we’re the way we are, without shame.
We can emphasize that like little boys, our parts make us special and are not for other people to touch nor are they for everyone to see all the time. I recommend using the correct anatomic terms if possible, although we are always tempted to use childish terms.
There is nothing wrong with telling a little girl that she has a vagina, or an anus or urethra instead of saying something like “poop hole or pee hole.” We can talk about the differences between boys and girls as well.
These conversations do not have to be long or detailed, usually your child, at this young age, listens and accepts what you say. They don’t want details.
Everyone Is Different And Unique
As children grow up they do become more curious and you will see your little girl begin to mimic you, whether it is playing dolls or dressing up or repeating things you say. As mommies, we interact with our daughters by playing with them, explaining what we are doing and teaching them “how to.”
This is a good time to teach them basic health habits. Giving the baby doll a bath can be a lesson on how we keep ourselves clean, how changing our clothes and cleaning our bodies keep us fresh and less likely to get an infection.
We should teach them not to sleep in panties, but rather use PJs or nighties, and to always be careful to clean ourselves from front to back after using the bathroom.
It is also an opportunity to start the conversation about body image, for most of the dolls that our daughters play with are unrealistic in their form.
Explain that no one really looks like “Barbie” and that is not what we should want to be. Nor are we abnormal because we do not look like that. We can explain that everyone is different and unique and as long as we are healthy and practice good habits our bodies will be beautiful.
Stress Good Lifetime Habits
Now is the time to begin that lifetime habit of exercise and eating healthy. Try to take some time to take walks, jog, swim, bike ride or do exercises together, and then you can use that time to have the mother-daughter talks we cherish forever.
It is important to remember you are the example to her, and be prepared for your daughter to come back at you for doing things like smoking, eating unhealthy snacks or drinking a beer!
The old saying “sugar and spice” belonged to our grandmother’s generation – the world we live in has different rules and one of them is that there is no such thing as a girl thing or a boy thing.
Our daughters can be anything they want, play any sport, do any job. Encourage your daughter to follow her interests even if they don’t fit a “girlie” mode. Who says she can’t play with trucks or toss a football?
She can do that and dress up in a frilly pink outfit as well. Don’t limit her by what your mother told you – it is a new world, but likewise don’t push her to be too adult too fast. No is a very good answer – make up, acrylic nails and hair dye are not meant for little girls even if “everyone is doing it.”
Keep Your Eyes Open
I can well remember my own mother telling me that someday I would have a daughter like myself, and I would then understand how hard it was to keep up with me in a battle of wills. Of course, her predictions came true, and probably every mother has said something very similar to her daughter.
As our girls become pre-teens the job of mothering becomes more arduous. A good hint in facing these years is: Keep your eyes open. The first sign your little girl is growing up is the development of breast tissue.
This can start as early as age 9 or as late as 16, and is followed in a few months by the beginning of pubic hair growth. There are no hard and fast rules about when this happens but you need to be observant, for our daughters do not always know how to tell us what is happening to them. If your daughter is a heavier child, this may begin earlier, and if she is on the thin side it may come later.
Talks About the Facts of Life
Almost every mom begins to notice the mood changes the pre-teener goes through—it is confounding when that sweet little girl becomes irritable, giggly, secretive, gossipy. She cries at nothing and gets angrier even easier. Her friends know everything and you know nothing.
It is, in short, a time when mothering becomes even more challenging – and that is even without having to talk about body changes.
Again a good rule is that it is never too early to have those talks about facts of life.
We all assume our children are more informed than we were – after all, there is the internet, sex ed at school and the information highway. However, that proves not to be true.
When questionnaires were given out to young women ready to go to college, it was shown that many were unaware of basic reproductive and anatomic facts. The early pre teen years are a good time to start these talks.
Again we need to gear the discussion to fit the age. So, what starts out as an argument about shaving legs can develop into a discussion about our body changes, like breast development, getting your period, dealing with cramps and hygiene issues.
Ask Her Questions, and Listen To Her Answers
Things have also changed since you were a kid in the last 20 years. There are now personal products that can be used by the young girl who is a virgin. There are vaccines against certain viruses that are linked to cervical cancer, and there are medicines to aid in regulating menstrual cycles and controlling or alleviating cramps.
Watch your daughter for extreme weight changes as eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia begin in these years. Behavior extremes can also signal drug use, drinking, or psychiatric disturbances. Try to have this kind of talk when neither of you are distracted nor feeling pressured. Ask her questions, and listen to her answers.
Do not be afraid to be direct and remember that she needs you to be the mom not the BFF. Set limits and enforce rules. That is our job and it is what our daughters need. Teach her that good manners and respect for others is much more attractive than being trash mouthed or “out there”.
Again, you may occasionally get some flak for not “walking the walk despite talking the talk” but it will ultimately make you both closer if these ideas are shared.
Remember it’s a girl—it’s a joy—it’s a job.