DEAR HARRIETTE: The "Maturing Too Fast" mom (whose husband wanted their daughter to cut ties with a 9-year-old friend who had started her period) is on the right track. Please use this as an opportunity to discuss the subject with your daughter!
For a variety of reasons, girls seem to be entering puberty sooner, and the better prepared the daughter is, the less traumatic it may be. Not allowing her to associate with her friend anymore is just strange! Where is this dad coming from?
Unfortunately, I had parents who were incredibly uncomfortable with the subject -- I never had "the talk" from them. I knew basically nothing about sex or sexual maturity until I was rudely and horribly awakened to it when I started being abused at age 9 by a trusted person. I had no clue what was going on, only that I thought it was probably wrong.
After three years, I was finally able to tell someone, and in the meantime, my older sister, not my mom, had explained menstruation to me. Had one of them figured it out, or had I felt like I could talk with my parents about "those things," they may have realized what those first instances of spotting actually were -- signs of abuse. Not that I am suggesting it in this case ... I am only strongly urging this mom and dad, and others, to talk to your kids! The more you talk with them now, the more likely they are to come to you with their problems in the future. And notice I said "talking," not lecturing or berating.
I struggled to talk with my daughters about this. I used books, online help and all the resources I could find to help make it easier. Not talking about things with your kids doesn't make the subject go away. It only makes them more likely to not include you in the loop of their life. -- Survivor, Salt Lake City
DEAR SURVIVOR: Parents should talk to their children about their developing bodies, about boundaries, and about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Creating dialogue when children are young helps them feel confident about talking to parents about anything as they mature.
DEAR HARRIETTE: There are far better ways to prepare young girls for getting a period than a five-minute talk (the norm under managed care) by a pediatrician! That "talk" is not a one-time-only discussion, nor should it be solely limited to bodily functions. It should involve values and advice about a girl's body, and can allow even woman-to-woman humor.
My granddaughters loved American Girl dolls, and my daughter-in-law found an American Girl book, "The Care & Keeping of You." It's written for 8- to 9-year-old girls. My oldest granddaughter got her period at age 9, so I was glad she'd been prepared this way.
The point is not to hand a girl such a book and walk away, but to use it to open up discussion and allow questions. "Maturing Too Fast" should start by having her reluctant husband read the book to bring him into the 21st century! He should know that his daughter already knows girls at school who have their periods. She needs two parents who can deal with it helpfully, as adults. -- Prepared, Chicago
DEAR PREPARED: Using a book as a tool to engage in meaningful dialogue is smart.