If talking to your parents about your first period was super cringe worthy, you're so not alone. But Naama Bloom, founder of HelloFlo.com hopes to remove the stigma attached to puberty. In fact, she says how you talk to your teen daughter about these topics has major implications for her future.
"My motto is talk early and often," Bloom told Parenting.com. "You should think about this as an ongoing conversation with your child."
So how early is too early? Bloom says kids are never too young to start learning about their bodies. So with small children, talk about what's public and what's private about their bodies. Eventually, your dialogue should evolve into discussing how your daughter's body is going to change when she hits puberty.
"Teach them that it's no big deal to have these conversations," she says.
According to Bloom, it's important to start this dialogue before your daughter starts developing or gets her first period. That way, she'll know what to expect and won't feel scared or alone.
"The deadline is before they discover Google and have unsupervised access to the Internet either via phone, tablet or computer. Your kids have questions, and they will do what they can to get answers," Bloom says.
The key is to remind your child that every woman gets her period and it's totally normal. And don't leave out the gory details, like why the blood is clumpy and brown.
"They are expecting to see what they'd see if they got a cut on their finger," says Bloom.
Of course, no matter how comfortable you feel bringing up these issues, your teen daughter may still feel uneasy. Bloom offers a great tip from HelloFlo's Medical Advisor Dr. Cara Natterson to combat awkwardness: "You should avoid eye contact because it creates too much pressure. A car ride or a conversation after lights out is often more successful because it doesn't feel as embarrassing."
Another way to avoid creating an awkward vibe is not to overload your teen by trying to tackle everything there is to know about puberty all at once.
Um, but what if you're a dad who may be having these conversations with a teen daughter?
"Remember, it's about her, not you. Let her know that even though you don't have firsthand experience, you are open to questions and you'll get her answers," Bloom advises.
She recommends enlisting a close female friend or relative for help in answering questions and to serve as another resource, especially since it's helpful to show a teen how to actually use pads and tampons.
"Take the products out of the wrappers and show them," Bloom advises. "I have heard more stories than I can count about girls who kept the tampon with applicator inside of them the first time because they didn't understand that the tampon was actually in the applicator."
Whether you're a mom or a dad, the bottom line is that opening the lines of communication between you and your teen daughter means you can control the messages she hears about her body. Sure, peers and the Internet will weigh in, but your voice in her ear telling her she is strong, beautiful, and that these changes happening to her body are normal and natural, will create a positive foundation for her future. And as Bloom points out, if you want your daughter to come to you when down the road she is faced with issues about sexuality, it's essential to lay the groundwork now for an honest relationship.
For more resources for you and your teen, check out HelloFlo.com, like the puberty section and Ask Dr. Flo, where you'll find personal stories and articles written by medical professionals, as well as kits that ease the transition to puberty.