Ish Major from Greenville, S.C., is a finalist in the Dear GMA Advice Guru Contest. Read his response to a viewer-submitted question below!
Question from Jennifer in Cincinnati, Ohio "I am the mother of twin pre-teens and I am ready to start navigating the mine field of inevitable puberty. I am amazed that some of their friends have hit puberty at such a young age. How do I best prepare my girls for the changes they will soon see in their bodies? At what age should they first see a gynecologist?"
Ish's Answer:The onset of puberty can be a fragile time for pre-teens and their parents. A lot of parents feel like they're holding on for dear life as they ride that teenage wave of emotions and hormones, never knowing what to expect next! I've found that a little education goes a long way towards keeping everybody on track as the roller coaster ride of puberty takes off!
The good news it that you're already ahead of the game by observing the changes you're seeing and anticipating the conversations that must come next. The other good news is that you probably already know the answers to most of the questions your girls may ask. The scary thing is that at this point they may already have some misinformation about development and sexuality. Your first job is to clear this up.
First, talk about the changes you're seeing in them and their friends and get their thoughts on it. That'll give you an excellent place to start the conversation. Some girls as young as 8 years old are beginning to mature physically. Next, you want to tell them what changes are coming. Girls usually see the first signs of puberty at 10 years old. Their first menstrual cycle usually starts two years after that. Also, teach them about how special and unique each of their bodies are and how they should always be valued! Be sure and address the topic of their attractiveness, as it's a critical part of developing self-esteem. Let them know while that's a part of who they are, the larger part is their personality and who they are as individuals. The lack of self-esteem is a common thread seen in many abusive relationships, mood and eating disorders, and promiscuity. As you're talking about their normal physical changes, this will give you a perfect opportunity to talk about sexuality. The birds and the bees and the boys!
The average age in the U.S. for teens starting to have sex is around 15 ½ years old. We also have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world, so sex is definitely something our kids are thinking about and a topic that we cannot avoid. Some parents feel guilty for bringing up the subject but remember this, despite the common myth, educating teens about sex and safety doesn't make them more likely to have sex at a younger age. That same education makes it more likely that they will be safe when they do begin to have sex later.
It's generally recommended that most teen girls visit their gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15. This visit offers reassurance and information for both you and your daughters.
Remember, this is not a one-time talk but an ongoing conversation. Be comfortable having the dialogue. Being willing to have these talks will make it that much easier to clear that potential mine field of puberty and plant a bed of tulips that you and your daughters can tip-toe through!