Resources for talking about the birds and the bees

May 23, 2013 in books,puberty

Pubertytalk2On Tuesday, I told you why you shouldn’t put off talking to your daughter about puberty and sex. Today I want to give you some specific ideas and resources. (Disclaimer: My girls are tweens. I don’t know if what I have done is a best practice. Time will tell. The suggestions below are from personal experience and the dozens of blogs and books I read about  raising girls.)

Use books to guide your discussions if you don’t know where to start.

You! A Christian Girl's Guide To Growing UpI like books. I think diagrams are helpful. They help me cover all the bases (sorry…what a pun given the topic). My favorite resources are Nancy Rue’s Body Book and Beauty Book. Nancy Rue has a new book out that appears to be a compilation of  both books. It’s called You! A Christian Girls Guide To Growing Up (win a copy next week!). It includes quizzes, spaces to write goals, answers to all the common questions,  fun facts,and quotes from tween girls who interact with Rue on her tween blog. It looks like a book but reads a bit more like a magazine. It doesn’t cover sex but it does cover all things puberty (even a diagram of the female reproductive system)and beauty issues like hair, skin and nail care.  I also like the American Girl books, The Care and The Keeping of You, books 1 & 2.  Use book 1 in 3rd and 4th grade and book 2 in 5th grade and beyond. The American Girl books are excellent but they do not highlight God’s role in the transformation into womanhood and to me, that perspective is essential. You can get any of these books at the library, but I like to buy them (rare for me). That way, if my girl has questions, she can return to the books and look up the answers. I wish I could give you great books for the sex part of these conversations but I have never found one I love. We used a series from Focus on the Family, but it felt childish even though we were talking about grown up things. If you know of great resources for the sex end of the growing up conversations, let me know.

Relax and return.  

However you approach this topic, relax. Let your girl know you are willing to answer her questions and never express shock or shame when she asks.  If you don’t know the answer to her question, be honest and then find the answer. You want to be the one she turns to for truth about her period, boys, and sex. Once you relax about discussing puberty it will be easier for you both to return to the topic. And return you must. Learning is a process and puberty is gradual. She won’t know what her questions about periods will be when she is eight and none of her friends have had one yet.  Only a small percentage of girls have personalities that will initiate conversations on these issues. If you want to win the battle against the world’s warped perspectives you must initiate and keep talking. Use movies, events at school, or books she is reading as opportunities to bring up issues. Ask her opinion and ask her what girls at school say about boys, their period, etc.  Asking questions and reacting kindly to her responses will be keep the conversation going and help you mold her view of the world.

Use the correct words and the slang ones too

I know, I used the phrase “Birds and the Bees” in the title of this post. When I write about growing up, I worry that men with sick minds who are googling girls and sex will find my blog if I use sex in the title! But for you, talking with your daughter, use proper terminology when you talk about these issues. Vagina. Sperm. Penis. Use them so your daughter understands. Also, when it is time, explain slang words like blow job.

Bird had a friend over for dinner last month week. Her friend was laughing and groaning about the boys in her class and their immaturity. She mentioned how they burst out in loud, obnxious laughter every time the word balls was mentioned. I’d taught Bird the meaning of swear words, body parts, and when or if these words were appropriate. I forgot balls. Probably because I am never around young boys. Bird looked at me with a question mark which quickly switched to the , “Mom, NOT NOW” look.  I returned to the topic later when her friend was gone.

You will never cover every slang word or myth associated with puberty and sex. But if you start talking, teaching and answering questions without batting an eyelid, she will come to you with her questions. That’s the goal. You don’t have to get these conversations perfect, moms, you just need to keep having them.

Talk about the scary parts

 A Smart Girl's Guide to the InternetAs soon as your girl starts developing breasts, you need to talk to her about sickos because men might start looking at her. Tell her about rape. Tell her about her internet profile and why she should never post pictures of herself in sports uniforms, swimsuits , etc on the internet. Tell her why she can’t meet a boy in person that she met online. The goal isn’t to scare her, but to educate her. If someone wants to violate her, knowing in advance what she might say and do will help. Teach her when to knee a man in the balls. This part of the growing up conversation wasn’t standard when I was a kid. It needs to be.  If you need a starting place, try reading A Smart Girl’s Guide To the Internet together. This book will cover some internet safety issues, but not the real crimes. I haven’t found a great resource for discussing these topics except, sadly, the news. If your girl is in her late teens and knows too much about date rape, you could read Beauty Restored: Finding Life and Hope After Date Rape by Me Rah Koh. Me Rah shares her story and how her faith helped her heal.

Now tell me, what are your favorite resources/strategies for these growing up conversations?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Mothering From Scratch May 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm

{Melinda} This is great advice, Laura. I used the “Care and Keeping of You” book, too. And my daughter really responded to that. I tried to find natural times to bring up the topic, so it wasn’t forced. And yes, don’t act shocked or like she’s wrong to ask questions! I’ve tried to be open to whatever she wanted to ask. Sometimes she hasn’t liked my opinions on things, but I’ve tried to not be overbearing or preachy. I’ve just said, “I love you too much to not tell you what I know to be true and what I know is going to be best for you.”

I haven’t done it all right either and I wish I would have emphasized certain things more and earlier. I always pray the Holy Spirit will work in ways I didn’t and can’t.

Great article, Laura … going to Tweet & Pin it. 🙂

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pruningprincesses May 23, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Thank you, Melinda. Now I want to know, what do you wish you had emphasized more and earlier? Maybe this is a guest blog post on Pruning Princesses in the future?

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Valerie May 27, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Loved your article! Great reminders and advice. My DD is now 19, and we still have some of these processes in place! It was such a pivotal time, I feel pushed to write. Sorry if this is long!

What I found out:

I was too late on some things and just right on others, don’t panic if your daughter knows more than you thought. YOU will have more of an impact than you realize.

I kept the biological information separate at first from social information. I will lecture .. for hours. I presented the biological information first, based on her needs. Short, simple answers first time out, adding more as needed during later conversations. I knew she would be overloaded if I tried to tackle her period, boys, creeps, internet safety and generally things to be afraid of or stay away from all at once.

We increased our ‘girl time’ slowly but steadily. My daughter and I have always enjoyed a close, happy relationship and have our favorite things to do. We just did more of them and we incorporated a few things towards women. I just asked her one day what she would like to do: “Now that you are growing up a little bit, would you like to switch our charity time to women’s shelters or something like that?’. I had already been to several shelters and found one that was not too shocking. We started by donating all of her room things and clothes when she re-decorated her room. It was the perfect merge.

I asked more questions than she did! What do you think about this? What are kids doing about that? Does this make any sense to you? What is your daily life like? Is there anything you need from me? How am I doing? Overall, my idea was that I really wanted to know where she was and how I was doing. I wanted to know what she needed and her answers allowed me insight into who she was.

Pray together! I asked her if she would like to become a part of my daily women’s devotional. Usually it was on motherhood, etc. so I found and planned a few that worked for our situation. It wasn’t everyday either. She was still 12 at the time, so it was more like a weekly woman’s devotional at the time, it allowed her time to think, process and still balance and be a child.

Start a mentoring group at church, and use whatever resources they have. We actually went to another church for a time in addition to our home church, which has a smaller youth/teen program.

I was more ready than I thought and the greatest gift I gave myself was preparation .. I needed it. I read books, blogs, watched webcasts, TV shows and asked friends. I PRAYED!!! I prepared for 6 months because I wanted to be ready when she was. It gave me great ideas, a plan and a sense of calm confidence.

I forced myself to not be afraid. I was though, deeply at times. I found that if I asked her specific questions such as ‘what would you do if’, ‘what do you believe about’, I was more effective and actually found my daughter to be more aware than she let on with general discussion. Most of my fears were about me, and the unknown. They were for my daughter, but from me. Prayer helps greatly, but I also needed to do some personal work. I also needed to remind myself of the boundaries between the two.

It was the beginning of letting go in a way. I was simply coming face to face with the idea that I was preparing her for when I wasn’t going to be there. But God would be. I have always told her that during her most difficult life decisions it would most likely come down to her and God. While I might be the voice in her head, God would be the pull in her heart. She needed to know what He would want her to do.

Neither one of us is perfect and we made a lot of mistakes. And we apologized for them and re-grouped. There were fights, disagreements and compromises. We were both learning and often her phases terrified me. Never anything drastic, but I was a bit hypersensitive and knew the learning process would hurt her. It usually came in the way of troubled friends she wanted to help, my daughter brings home wounded birds and stray cats, literally. She was as strong as I had hoped, but it gave me several sleepless nights. Pray! And KNOW you will make mistakes and maybe even do things you wish you could take back. I wish I had been better prepared for this!

The hard work paid off: Good news is that at 19 my daughter is a strong, passionate woman who is still building skills but has yet to be defined by the world. She has never smoked, drank, had sex, and has only dated one boy seriously, whom she has kissed but not passionately. She waited until she found someone of character, someone who respects her as she does herself. She reaches out to the sick, wounded, and hurt of the world and does her best to share herself, God, and help them.

The hard work didn’t end: My daughter has been influenced by a modern world and is also her own person. She has a strong faith, but many of her views are different from mine and common in her generation. My mother used to have a sign on her door “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” I have bought one! I pray, we are still so very close and we still respect each other but there are differences, and I have the choice of digging in my heels or letting God continue His work in her and us. I know I have done my best to educate and prepare her for the world, and she is ready. I know this because I love her with all my heart and would protect her with my life, and if she can stand up to me she can stand up to anything.

Looking back I wish:

I would have started a little earlier, maybe 6 months to a year.

I would have gotten her into physical classes to protect herself, it is the one area she is lacking in right now. She never liked martial arts, boxing, etc. so it has been hard. She is ready though for a women’s self protection class, so we are looking into one at a gym.

I would have remembered not to panic when she changed so quickly at 18-19. Night and day, overnight! Our time together as mother and daughter, tucking in and kissing good night ended so abruptly, literally one day it was there another the stab in the heart of ‘Mom, you know we don’t really have to do this anymore’ .. and I could tell that it was something she had felt for a while. I am replacing it with a new church group or woman’s group, but I did not handle her ‘final push’ really well. I cried for days and went a little crazy. But that is years down the road for you all, just know there are some slight variations your daughter may go through at earlier ages, and there is a sense of independence that happens when they go through physical changes.

God Bless!

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pruningprincesses May 28, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Oh you wrote me my very own mentor mom post. I loved it. And hated it. Some of the independent, push away, become your own person who disagrees with her mom stuff, I know it is reality and healthy. I hope I handle it well. This was my favorite line you wrote, “I have always told her that during her most difficult life decisions it would most likely come down to her and God. While I might be the voice in her head, God would be the pull in her heart.” So much wisdom in this. I also had to laugh that you mentioned self defense classes, I had been thinking of signing my girl up for such classes, but was unsure if the idea of them might scare her. She will definitely be interested in martial art as both my girls love all things athletic. Thank you for encouraging me to enroll in them. I also like how you asked more questions than she did. That’s great. Thank you so much for all your thoughts and advice. I will definitely be returning to this comment for encouragement.

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Amanda May 29, 2013 at 5:21 am

Both were very good articles!! Us moms, we NEED this info!!
Thank you!

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pruningprincesses May 29, 2013 at 11:45 am

Thanks, Amanda. Come back today as the Nancy Rue book giveaway is starting!

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