Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Puberty Education

Puberty Education for Tweens, Teens and Parents


Puberty is a sensitive subject for growing tweens, but also challenging for teens and adults too. My mom was 8 years old when she first got her period so because she was so young she talked to me about puberty and the changes I would be experiencing around that age, just in case I got it when I was very young like her.  Lo and behold, two years later, at 10 years old I started going through puberty and to top it all off, I was one of the first girls in my class to go through these changes so I was extremely embarrassed and tried to hide my growing chest and all the other signs like hair showing up on my legs (and my mom refusing to let me shave!).  But through all of that, I can't imagine how much harder it would've been for me if I would've been confused about these "sudden changes" that seemed to have come out of nowhere.  All too often parents either expect the schools to talk to their children about these things or they just don't feel comfortable enough to start the conversation themselves.  So Shopaholic Mommy is partnering with "You ARE Loved," a wonderful non-profit educational organization, to help spread the word and educate tweens and teens about their changing bodies and Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Let's start with a little information about You ARE Loved
According to their website, "You ARE Loved is a non-profit educational organization devoted to abolishing tampon related Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) in this generation." 
After the death of her daughter, Amy, to TSS, the founder of You ARE Loved, Lisa Elifritz made it her mission to educate young women and mothers about the risks related to wearing tampons.  Even in this day and age, the risk is still there and it can happen to anyone!  "Amy was a hygiene freak!" exclaims her mother, and she had read the pamphlet about TSS that comes in every box of tampons more than once.  Lisa wants to make it known to everyone that this could happen to anyone at anytime!  She researched ways to bring this important cause out into the public eye and that is how she came up with the idea for You ARE Loved (the ARE stands for her daughters initials - Amy Rae Elifritz).

Lisa developed You ARE Loved to help educate girls around the country about early warning signs and prevention of Toxic Shock Syndrome.  To spread the message, Lisa has spoken at schools and is using social media to get the word out.  She's even approached parents that have tween or teen children and talked with them because it's so important to get the word out!  And she does all of this while struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome!  What an extraordinary woman!
But just like any other non-profit organization, it costs money to run and donations are so important, so if you'd like to donate to You ARE Loved, you can visit their website for more information.
More Information about Puberty and Puberty Education
I learned a lot of valuable information from my research and my conversations with You ARE Loved's Director of Education.  Having good information is essential for parents to feel confident in approaching this topic with their children.  So let's discuss how we would talk about puberty with our tweens. Talking about body changes and puberty isn't going to be a walk in the park for anyone, it's going to be a little awkward at first but that's where you, as the parent, step in and try to make it as comfortable of an experience as possible.  One night+ my mom called me into her room and pulled out a giant book with pictures and all kinds of information.  We sat in bed and she explained everything to me, she showed me a few diagrams and answered any questions I had.  And even after an explanation, when the day finally came it was still a scary, kind of confusing experience for me but I can't imagine how much more confusing and scary it would've been if I didn't know what was going on!  I've met many mothers my age that were not educated about puberty growing up so when they had their first period, they panicked! To make matters worse, some of these poor girls weren't even home at the time and they said that it was because either their parents thought they were learning it in school or they just didn't know how to bring it up.  In the end it doesn't matter how you tell your daughter about the changes she's going to go through, it just matters that you talk to her about it and you do it before she gets her period.  If you wait until she gets it, it's too late.  Today, girls are getting their periods sooner and their flows are often heavier. Can you imagine how scared a clueless little girl would be if she got her period for the first time at 8 or 9 years old and no one told her what was going on?  She'd probably think she was dying! I'd personally, rather my daughter (if I had one that is) learn this kind of stuff from me, than from a Health Teacher at school anyway!   So what do you tell your daughter or son (boys have questions too!) about puberty?  Well for one, before discussing menstruation, it's a good idea to do a little research first.  You don't want to give them any bad information!              
  • Begin now. Start early and talk about it regularly beginning well before she gets her period!  Some girls start menstruating at 8 years old so it's not a bad idea to bring this conversation up to your daughter around 7
  • Be proactive.  Don't always wait for her to initiate the conversation.  .
  • Be open and honest!  Provide factual answers and don’t dismiss any question asked. If your daughter has questions you can't answer, consider discussing them with her doctor.
  • Be personal. Share your own experiences.  As a conversation starter you can explain to her what you went through when you were growing up.  Girls who are unaware of their impending period can be frightened by the sight and location of the blood and their imaginations may run away with them so it's better to explain it to them before so there is no confusion.
  • Be reassuring.  This is a very confusing time and girls often feel insecure about the changes their bodies are going through such as weight gain, bloating, pimples or acne, etc.  Assure your daughter that there's a huge variation in the timing of these milestones.  Just because her friends are getting their periods sooner or later than she is, there is no cause for concern.  Everyone goes through it at some point or another, just not at the same pace or at the same time.
  • Be practical.  Most girls are interested in what they should do if they get their period at school or when they need to wear a bra.  Think about what questions you had when you were younger and address those questions with your child.  Ask her if she has any questions for you as well!
You can't rely on the schools to teach your children these things.  A sensitive subject such as this should be discussed in private so your child feels comfortable to ask the questions they need to get all of the answers they need.

In my next post I will be discussing Toxic Shock Syndrome and the risks associated with tampon use.  I will also be talking a little bit more about the incredible non-profit organization, You ARE Loved, and my association with them.

Consider these questions and please post in the comments below.
·        Think back to when you were a tween.  What do you wish you had known?  What half-truths, myths or inaccurate data did you believe or hear from friends?
·        Take a few minutes to remember as much as you can about your first period.  At what age will you (or did you) share this with your daughter?  What was hardest or most awkward for you about handling your period the first several times you had it?
·        How much do you really know about puberty? What would you like to learn more about?  What resources (specific books, websites, etc.) have been most helpful to you?
·        Puberty education is a multi-year process not an isolated “talk.”  How did you (or will you) start the conversation with your child?  How do you (or will you) make sure regular conversations happen?
·        What kinds of materials have you had a hard time finding or been unable to find?  (You ARE Loved is in the process of developing resources and appreciates suggestions.)

5 comments:

  1. Great post! I couldn't agree more. These same thoughts are what lead to the development of our Be Prepared Period Kits. Our company/website www.bepreparedperiod.com is also working on ways to support YouARELoved and promote early puberty education. Thank you for posting this great info!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the info! I am trying to think of how to teach my 10 ywar. Old son about puberty. My 6 year old daughter never crossed my mind.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You're very welcome, stay tuned for the next post on Tampons and Toxic Shock Syndrome coming next week!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, Ashley for letting folks know about You ARE Loved and for helping parents prepare themselves with the knowledge and confidence needed to begin educating their daughters. Starting the conversation before your daughter starts developing makes a world of difference.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Another GREAT resource that I've found in my search for information on broaching the topic of puberty is Girlology- it's a program run by doctors who are interested in getting moms and daughters talking about puberty, including TSS and other health topics, so that those lines of communication are open when these, and other related topics, occur in real life. Their information is vast, accurate, and extremely helpful for a mom who is facing broaching these topics for the first time with their daughter. Here's their website: www.girlology.com

    ReplyDelete

 
Designed By: Wacky Jacqui's Designs