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Parents’ Puberty Questions—Answered

We covered everything from first bras to first pimples in "What to Expect When You’re Expecting Puberty," our guide for moms of tweens and teens. But there’s still so much more to talk about. So we’re taking your anonymous questions and getting in-the-trenches experts to respond to them right here. Have something you'd like to ask about your son's or daughter's hormonal evolution? Email us at health@FamilyCircle.com

Q. My daughter is 11 and is the only one of her friends who has her period. She gets teased a lot, and she's horribly embarrassed. What can I do to help?

A. “You're already doing something right if she felt comfortable enough to tell you what's going on,” says parenting educator Rosalind Wiseman, who is also the best-selling author of Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. “The first girl to get her period in a clique can stir up a lot of emotions among the other girls, who may be jealous and relieved, all at the same time. Girls often process these confusing feelings by targeting the person they think is causing the problem.

“But knowing why someone is acting mean doesn't justify her bad behavior. Tell your daughter you're really sorry about the situation, and coach her to respond to her friends with something like, 'Look, it's weird enough to get my period without being teased about it. I can't help that I got my period, and I can't control what you say. But it would be nice to have friends who'd make my life easier instead of harder. So please stop.' You can also use this as an opportunity to share some of your own experiences at this age—just don't describe it exclusively as the most wondrous, magical time in a woman's life because she'll tune out."

Q. My 17-year-old son doesn't shower enough. Should I say something to him?

A. “Here's a rule to follow when you want to talk to your son about something that makes you and/or him uncomfortable: Have the conversation side by side instead of face to face, maybe while driving in the car or watching TV,” suggests parenting educator Rosalind Wiseman, who is also the best-selling author of Masterminds & Wingmen. “Then be direct: 'Sam, I love you dearly, but you smell. You need to take showers more often. Every day before school would be ideal, but I'll be satisfied with once every other day.' If he blows you off or seems to forget, I'd ask him straight up what's going on because his behavior may mean he's resigned to being rejected by his peers or he doesn't notice other people's reaction to him—maybe he's depressed or he has social skills deficits. Either way, if the problem continues, I'd get him the appropriate psychological help.”

 

Q. My 9-year-old suddenly has very dark hair on her legs. Other girls have noticed, and she wants to shave. I think she's too young, but I don't want her to be teased either. What should we do?

A. “This is a classic rite of passage for both of you,” says parenting educator Rosalind Wiseman. “And I know it's tempting to say, ‘No way! Talk to me when you're 14!’ But there are two things to keep in mind. One, most girls your daughter's age have absorbed cultural messages that tell them there are things 'wrong' with their body that require fixing. Two, kids need all the help they can get navigating peer pressure. So explain to your daughter what's happening with her body, because she's probably worried she's the only one going through it. Then discuss the pros and cons of shaving. Pro: She doesn't get teased. Con: She changes herself to please others. Your job is to help her realize when these decisions come at the price of her personal authenticity. If after all that, she still wants to, I'd compromise by letting her bleach her hair, and at 12 I'd let her shave. In the meantime, keep using body image issues like this one to teach her about making thoughtful choices.”