Teenage is like a butterfly coming out of the cocoon. A whole new perspective of the world develops, as life progresses from the kid stage to that of adolescence. The protected, dependent child starts getting a taste of freedom and individuality of the adult life. There are distinct anatomical and psychological changes as one passes through adolescence. Teenage is exciting, challenging as well as confusing. While girls and boys both undergo hormonal changes during this period, it is comparatively tougher for girls to understand and accept the ways of womanhood. This is the reason why mother’s should be aware, open, and understanding, when daughters are at the thresh hold of adolescence. This is the time when girls have to be taught to keep themselves safe, while at the same time parents also have to encourage independence and self-confidence. It is a tricky situation where parents have to be really watchful, but without being intrusive. An open friendly relationship between parents and daughters helps in sailing through this transition period safely and smoothly.
When your daughter is about 10 or 11 years old, start telling her about hormonal changes whenever you get an opportunity, like when teaching her school anatomy chapters. Usually breasts start developing 2-3 years before menarche (onset of menses). This is one indication, when you should prepare her mentally about the changes she is going to experience, particularly the menstrual cycle. Otherwise, it comes as a terrible shock if the child is totally unaware. Mothers can start the topic by explaining the importance of maintaining hygiene of the private parts. Gradually you can explain how due to increased female hormone secretion there is some colorless discharge in the beginning and then the monthly bleeding. Even then onset of menses is a difficult phase for girls. It brings about lots of emotional turmoil. Therefore it is very important for mothers to be understanding. Try to assure your daughter that she is not the only one, but all girls and women experience this. It is a part of life taking you into a beautiful womanhood. You can narrate your own experiences to help her accept this natural process.
As the girl matures and accepts and adjusts to the monthly cycles, its time to explain the meaning of these changes. Be a friend to your daughter, as you are the best person to understand her confused emotions. Talk and listen about her friends in a relaxed, non-judgmental way. She must feel free to talk about anything without inhibitions.
Small hints to the girl child, from an early age (about how she should behave regarding dresses and manners, particularly when with boys) helps them in understanding and maintaining a healthy/safe relation with the opposite sex. Tell the child what type of touching, pecking, hugging are not to be permitted for her own safety. Encourage her to speak up anything that hurts her, or something that she doesn’t like in some of her friends.
Mothers should also be aware of the sexual health of their daughters. There are some common gynecological problems which may require treatment. Certain things to watch out for, are-
- Amenorrhoea- Absence of menstrual period in a woman of reproductive age is called amenorrhea.
- Irregular periods- Usually periods are not regular during the first two-three years of menarche. After that too it may not always be on the 28th day, but may vary between 21-35 days. Any type of mental stress often delays the cycle. Continuous delay every month, or missing periods by one or two months may require medical check-up for cases like polycystic ovary.
- Menorrhagia- Anemia may cause abnormal and prolonged bleeding.
- Excess pain during periods
- Reproductive tract infections- Vaginal discharge, burning sensation are the most common symptom of reproductive tract infection.
As the girls enter the threshold of womanhood, they become aware of their physical appearance, comparingthemselves to friends and celebrities. They have to be frequently assured of their healthy body structure. Too much obsession with body image may lead to problems like anorexia and bulimia. Mothers have to be alert and look out for any type of eating disorders in their daughters. Engage them in creative, active, healthy activities and make them feel comfortable in their own skin. Excessively thin or obese children may need physical check-up.
It’s a normal passing phase. Help your daughter emerge into a healthy adulthood, appreciating the beautiful feminine ways of nature, as she blooms into a confidant woman of substance. An answer to almost every growing up stage is – a happy, relaxed, loving, understanding family atmosphere. Family should be the ultimate absorber of every ups and downs of life. So embrace your daughter and let her pour out her heart to you!