Middle school is the worst! As a parent, it’s really easy to feel like you can’t talk to your tween about anything but I’m telling you how to talk to your tween about everything. Actually, that is probably the best advice ever. Just keep talking and listening. Don’t forget the listening bit especially when it feels awkward.
I’m a pretty outgoing person. Classic ENFP. and I come from a big Catholic family so there’s not much you can throw at me that will knock me on my rear end but middle school did. Middle school pretty much FUBARed me. Yep. I said it. It did.
It’s all that awkwardness mixed with gangliness and those hormones. I felt like I was living in someone else body and like someone or something had taken over my brain and not just mine but all of my friends. It was like from one day to the next, you never knew who you were going to be or who your friends were going to be.
Things were changing at a dizzying pace. It’s no wonder that I was so angsty. I was spinning out of control and I could not get a handle on it. I was at the mercy of biology and if I remember correctly, biology had it out for me.
One day I was a little girl and the next day I was trying to hide the ever growing hair on my legs (that my dad refused to let me shave). It felt like it took years for my boobs to come in. I mean seriously all I needed until I was 15 was an undershirt. Of course, I wore a training bra in hopes they’d get the hint and start to grow. The only purpose it served was for Jason and Mike, my former best basketball buddies, to perfect their bra strap snapping technique. I was stuck in status breast buds for like 5 years. Then they came in like gangbusters overnight. I definitely didn’t peak until college.
But I got my period the summer before 8th grade. It would have read like a Judy Blume book had it not have happened in a McDonald’s bathroom with no warning whatsoever! Wtf!!’
But here I am again… going through puberty. Well, not me exactly but there is definitely puberty happening in my house. The thing is, I don’t want the traumatic experience of middle school to be my legacy so we’ve been trying to ease into it. The more you know and all that ish. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and I think preparation makes everything easier, so we read ahead and I try to teach my girls about whats coming their way before it actually descends upon them like it did me in the bathroom at McDonalds.
Aside from talking about everything.all the time. My husband teases me that my girls are going to start refusing to get in the car with me because it always seems like we have the most “teachable moments” in the car. You know, when they are trapped. For example, the other day, I was taking my 12-year-old to the doctor for a viral infection. This prompted her to ask me if I had missed my yearly gynecological appointment that she knew I had last week.
I explained that I had to cancel because I started my period and that would just be rude. Then, I gave her an impromptu explanation about what happens at a gynecological visit because it dawned on me that many women don’t like going. I figured if she knew what she’ll be in for, it would alleviate some of the stress when the time comes to go. I explained that they are doctors and it’s just another body part and it’s necessary to be proactive in our advocacy for our own health.
Which turned into the conversation about sex and that when the time comes that she is ready, I would hope that she comes to me so we can discuss it (without judgment) and she can be prepared and safe. I explained HPV and how most birth control only prevents pregnancy, you need condoms to prevent the spread of STDs. I went on to tell her that HPV is usually undiagnosed but can cause infertility so condoms should always be on hand.
Then that segued into a conversation about the different types of birth control that are available to women. I may or may not have told her about the time when the patch made my entire ass break out in a rash because I ( like she) am allergic to Band-Aids. I also, may or may not have told her how the Nuva Ring popped out because…cervical fluid and she may have died on the spot laughing. But that’s how we roll. The more you know.
Anyways, not everyone is as comfortable talking to their children about all of this so thank goodness there are so many tools to help parents these days. We use Amaze.org for the videos and love the American Girl books for written reference.
Here are some of our favorite American Girl books that we use at our house.
American Girl: The Care and Keeping of Us A Sharing Collection for Girls and Their Moms
And for the first-time ever, American Girl is taking its expertise on puberty and adolescence and extending it to boys and their parents with a new title: Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys. If you have a son, this is the perfect book. Guy Stuff tackles everything boys need to know about their developing bodies and minds from healthy eating, bad breath and shaving to pubic changes, moodiness and expressing emotions.
Written by Dr. Cara Natterson, board-certified pediatrician, NY Times bestselling author of AG’s Care and Keeping of You series, and mom of 12-year-old son and 14-year-old girl, tackles every subject in a down-to-earth and approachable manner will help spark conversations between parents and their sons, including those most reluctant to talk about what they’re going through.
Disclosure: I was provided some of the books in this series by American Girl to review but we already owned a few of them and all opinions are my own.