DEAR ABBY: I'm a mother of three beautiful little girls. I'm nervous about having to talk with my oldest about puberty and sex. She's turning 10, and I know I need to start explaining certain things to her, but I have no idea how. My mother never sat me down and talked to me about anything, really, so my mom would not be of much help. Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. -- MINNESOTA MOM OF THREE
DEAR MOM: You can spare your daughter a frightening experience when her first period arrives if you start talking to her now, before it happens. Start the conversation by making the message positive -- that she will "become a woman" soon and tell her what to expect. Show her what to do in case you are not there and what supplies she will need to take care of herself. That's step one.
A short time later, ask her what she knows about reproduction. Because reproduction is taught in some schools, she may surprise you by how much she already knows. If she doesn't, start talking to her about how her body works and your family values. It is important that parents also talk to their children about drugs and alcohol well before they start to experiment. My booklet "What Every Teen Should Know" covers sexuality as well as other topics, including dating, peer pressure, sexually transmitted diseases, drugs and alcohol. It can be ordered by sending your name and address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to Dear Abby Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. Order it for yourself and review it before starting your discussions with your daughter. My Teen booklet has been distributed in doctors' offices as well as by educators and religious leaders. The more information you can provide your daughters, the better prepared those girls will be to make informed choices in the future.