Sex and Sexuality:
“How do I begin the puberty talk with my 10 year old daughter?”
Dear Annie,I want to have the puberty discussion with my just turned 10 year old daughter. But I don't want to freak her out with too much information. On the other hand I don't want her to wake up and get her period one day without knowing what's going on. Help!
First of all, the "puberty discussion" is not one talk, it's actually an ongoing series of discussions that evolve along with your daughter's physical, social and emotional development. The goal at the onset is for you to establish yourself as a safe person she can come to for reliable information. You also want to be someone she can trust to "hear" what she has to say without necessarily trying to "fix" things. This is essential to your relationship as she moves toward adolescence. You sound like a very sensitive parent and your instincts about not wanting to "freak" her out with "too much information" at this point is right on the money.
The rule of thumb has been to let the child's natural curiosity guide parents. In other words, let her set the agenda with her own questions. But not all children have the same level of curiosity about reproduction and sexual matters. Some kids, would never initiate such a conversation with a parent. In that case, should the parent initiate the conversation? I think so.
Clearly you don't want to overwhelm her. Nor do you want to introduce concepts that she's not yet emotionally ready to understand. That could be frightening and disturbing to her. How about taking your cue from her physical development? If for example, your 10 year old is starting to show signs of the onset of puberty (weight gain, increase in height, breast development, body hair) then that would be a good place to start even if she doesn't initiate the conversation. You might say: "Sweetie, I've noticed you're getting taller and your body is changing. That's wonderful! Have you noticed that too?" This is friendly, non-threatening and non-judgmental. It's a positive tone to set for a discussion about growing up.
On the other hand, if your daughter is physically still very much a "little girl" there's less of a sense of urgency in having the conversation. Still you could easily bring it up in this context: "I was wondering, do you and your friends ever talk about getting your period?" That's a fairly neutral question and it's likely to open things up for an ongoing dialogue.