Saturday, 23 February 2008


Originally this post was intended to be a guide to the parents of daughters about to go through the physical and emotional changes of puberty. Basically, this is still the aim. But in the course of writing its scope has widened, as clearly the years of puberty cannot be singled out for examination as if the remaining years of adolescence are completely separate and independent. Puberty is the first stage of adolescence, and possibly the most vital.

It is one of the failings of society that we are generally fairly ignorant about how our bodies work. Such ignorance can be positively dangerous where the mental and physical health and well being of a growing girl are concerned. I have yet to find an 11 or 12 year old girl, no matter how fully instructed on her sexual development she may be, who does not seek reassurance that what is happening to her is perfectly normal.

The beginning of breast enlargement, together with the darkening of the nipples are the earliest signs of puberty in girls. Pubic hair is another clear sign. Some girls are embarrassed by their developing figures, other greet the process with great delight. Hair will begin to appear on the legs and under the arms. Now is the time for you to discuss with your daughter the values of involved in removing the hair from legs and under arms. Once you have done this, point out to her the various ways of hair removal and the use of deodorant preparations.

Although the first days of her period may not be an ideal time for a girl to go horseback riding or to undertake any strenuous sport, if she normally takes part in these activities then she should continue to do so.
Water is in no way harmful during menstruation. Your daughter can swim, wash her hair, bathe and shower as normal. In fact it is advisable that she learns early to take good care of herself when she is menstruating. Be careful not to suggest that menstruation is either dirty or disgusting.
Discuss with your daughter the use of tampons and sanitary pads, then leave the final choice to her. Making such decisions will let her feel she has some control over her body.

The hands of time cannot be turned back. Try as you might, you cannot bring up your daughter in the way your parents might have done. Families live vastly different lifestyles from those lived twenty years ago; sexist roles within marriage have changed; children's roles within a family have changed; the opportunities offered by the world to your daughter have changed from those that were offered to you.
You simply cannot afford to let your own standards and view stagnate. This does not mean that you have to lower your principals. But you have to learn to adapt them.
One of the most exasperating aspects of parenting a teenager is that by the time you have adjusted to what is 'in', it is 'out'. But you'll be greatly assisted if you remember that the trendy things - the jargon, the fashion gimmicks, the pop groups, and so on - are all very superficial. One of the reasons that they are important to your teenager is because they differ from the conventional, and are therefore something you probably do not approve of!

Probably one of the most disturbing aspects of puberty is what seems to be a sudden desire for independent thought in their daughter. She begins to question and often disagree and argue. But what parents regard as cheating and dishonesty may not appear to be as such to her. This attitude can drive some parents into near panic. They cannot work out where they have gone wrong, nor why their daughter no longer seems to have any respect for authority or any sense of personal responsibility. Rather than panicking, I would suggest an honest appraisal of your values and those of your daughter.
This is the era of the clever deal, the canning tax dodge and the bending of the truth. You only have to tune into the electronic media or read a newspaper to be aware of this. When youngsters grow up in such an environment, it follows that they are less ashamed of cheating and prouder of 'getting away with it'. The shame today lies in getting caught, not the act of dishonesty itself.

Teenagers are expensive, but they are not some luxury you can decide to forego. If you get down to the facts and figures, you will probably find your teenage daughter eats more than anyone else in the household [unless you also have teenage sons]; uses more electricity and hot water than anyone else; and runs up a major percentage of the phone bill.
It is my opinion that it is preferable for a teenager to be given a set amount of money to handle each week than to be handed $5 or so upon request. It is no good to hand over the money you think is adequate - both parents and daughters need to be able to sit down and discuss what the money is meant to cover and how much these items cost. By the time she is a teenager it is a good idea to allow her to manage the money necessary for snacks, books, records, hobby and sporting costs, and entertainment

To the adolescent and sub-adolescent, cliques can be just as time-and-emotion-consuming as crushed on an individual - particularly to the insecure girl. But until a teenager learns the social skils which enable her to feel comfortable with people who are different from hrself, the cliques is an obvious haven.

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