The Parent’s Survival Guide: Explaining Puberty to Your Daughter
The word “puberty” can cause anxiety in both young girls and their parents. Parents often think about mood swings, menstrual cramps, and scaring boys away. While the transition from childhood to teen years can certainly have its ups and downs, it can also be a wonderful opportunity for parents to communicate and connect with their daughters.
So how should a girl’s parents talk to her about puberty?
1. Consider your family structure
Whether you are married, separated, or a single mom or dad, your approach to the conversation will be different. Couples – talk together about how involved each parent should be in the conversation. Girls are generally more comfortable talking about bodily changes to women, but if you are a single dad, don’t shy away from talking to her. It’s better coming from you than from kids on the playground.
2. Refresh your memory
If your daughter is approaching her teen years, it’s probably been a while since you sprouted your first armpit hair. Find a book and read up on the changes that girls experience – hormones, breast growth, menstruation, feelings about boys, pimples, hair growth, complex and abstract thinking, etc. After you’ve read up and talked to your daughter, give her the book to supplement your conversations.
3. Talk early and often
You may have heard stories from previous generations of girls who thought they were hemorrhaging to death when they got their first period because no one ever told them what menstruation was. Don’t be that parent – talk to your daughter early about what will happen when puberty starts. Most girls start to menstruate between ages 10 and 15, and any difficulties adjusting to puberty will be minimized if she knows what to expect ahead of time.
4. Make it a dialogue
Though you want to be open and honest, make sure you aren’t overloading her with information. Ask her what she knows, encourage her to ask questions, and ask her questions as well.
Examples: “Are you noticing any changes in your body?”
“Do you feel sad sometimes and don’t know why?”
5. Reaffirm body image
Most girls grow the fastest about six months before their first period, gaining body fat along upper arms, thighs, and upper back. Their breasts enlarge, hips widen, and their waist narrows. Though these are all normal parts of entering womanhood, they can make your daughter feel self-conscious. Set a good example by avoiding negative comments about your own body and never make fun or criticize her body’s changes.
6. Keep it casual
As exciting as it may feel to see your daughter begin her transition toward womanhood, making a big deal out of it can embarrass her. Help her feel comfortable by acting casual about her development. For example, when you take her to buy her first training bra, don’t brag to the cashier about your little girl growing up or post #FirstBraShopping on social media.
7. Keep quality time on the calendar
One of the major changes of adolescence is that your child will start to care a lot more about social relationships and may distance themselves from you to some degree. This is normal and not from a loss of love or respect, but rather that adolescents feel an increased need for privacy. As your daughter starts to show a need for space, allow her some privacy but eat meals together and set quality time each week to spend as a family. This will encourage communication and help both of you feel connected.
8. Go beyond biology
Talking about bodily changes is important, but it’s also important to discuss other issues that they may face during their teen years. Discuss your family values about risky behaviors such as sex or drugs before they are exposed to them. Talk about ways they can respond to peer pressure or dangerous situations. Let them know you trust them and are there to support them.
9. Set boundaries and consequences
As your daughter develops unpredictable hormones, she may give you major attitude about your boundaries. Still, setting realistic expectations around grades, behavior, and house rules will remind her that you are in control during these somewhat tumultuous years. No matter how much she fights you on it, stick to your rules and consequences. She will thank you for it one day.
10. Prepare to be patient
Puberty in girls can last anywhere from 18 months to 5 years, so it’s important that you get yourself in the right mindset to be patient and supportive throughout your daughter’s transition. This does not mean you need to accept unacceptable behavior, but do pick your battles, try not to react with outbursts, and make sure you find time to take care of your own mental and emotional health needs.
11. See a specialist
There are many changes that girls experience throughout puberty and it can be difficult for parents to know the best way to connect to their daughter through the groans and eye rolls. It can be a tough time, and there’s nothing wrong with getting a little extra help.
Cynthia Johnson, LMFT, is a specialist in Parenting and Child Therapy at Variations Psychology. She has years of experience in supporting families and strengthening relationships between parents, teens, and children. Cynthia can help your daughter understand the changes she will be experiencing and support you in communicating with her as she enters her teen years.
Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in child and educational psychology. Dr. Shinn can help you support your child emotionally, mentally, and academically as they experience the changes of puberty and adolescence. Dr. Shinn helps families understand each other’s needs and perspectives to build strong family connections.
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Adolescence - Puberty, Cognitive transition, Emotional transition, Social transition Psychology Encyclopedia (2018) Retrieved online:
Girls and Puberty (2018) Retrieved online:
Dowshen, S. (2015). A Parent’s Guide To Surviving The Teen Years. Retrieved online:
Puberty Encyclopedia of Children’s Health. Retrieved online:
How to Cite This Blog Article:
Shinn, M.M. (2018). The Parent’s Survival Guide: Explaining Puberty to Your Daughter. Psychologically
Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/the-parents-survival-guide-explaining-puberty-to-your-daughter