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If you’re the parent of a girl or boy who is about to go through puberty or is already starting to experience changes, sign up now (don’t wait!) for Girlology or Guyology, which are being offered in Raleigh by WakeMed Children’s. The programs are for 4th and 5th graders. Girls attend with their mothers, and boys attend with their fathers.
Two years ago I sat next to my 10-year-old daughter in a room full of girls and mothers. I’m sure we all arrived at the Girlology program with the same feeling of anticipation and uncertainty, but we quickly found ourselves relaxed and enjoying a really healthy conversation about all the ways our bodies change.
Yes, we sat with a big group of people we didn’t know and talked about puberty. And yes, of course, there were giggles. In fact, I think the presenters struck the perfect balance of straight talk with a touch of humor to remove the awkwardness and help create normalcy.
We didn’t talk about the “birds and the bees.” They have a program for that for older girls. The focus was on the inevitable – the way the body changes during puberty and how normal it all really is.
It’s the puberty conversation you want to believe you will have with your son or daughter, not the awkward, nervous one most of us actually suffer through.
Many parents end up waiting and talking about specific changes and events as they happen, which sometimes leaves kids seeking information from friends or the Internet. Instead of trickling information out, Girlology and Guyology focus on talking about the whole process of puberty and how your body changes over time and at different times for different people.
The programs help normalize all the things that happen during puberty, and that is really the key to it all. For example, during Girlology they bring out props, pass them around ,and talk openly and honestly about things that girls simply need to know. You name it – bras, menstruation, the uterus, the vulva, sanitary pads, tampons and emotions.
As a pediatrician, I talk with ease about body parts and the facts of how the body changes, but I’m no expert to my girls. I’m just their Mom. So I appreciated the chance to just participate in the group conversation, nod in agreement, and enjoy time together.
During the program, I watched my daughter embrace that puberty is going to happen and that she didn’t have to feel embarrassed or confused about it. We walked away with a shared experience – one that we’ve continued to lean on and refer back to as the realities of puberty and growing up have evolved.
They gave us helpful tools, too! My daughter received a book that she could read and flip back to when she wanted to understand more about a change. And my favorite tool is the “No Freak Out” pin, which is what I agree to when my daughter wants to talk. That’s right, I promise not to freak out no matter what she asks or tells me. That alone has really helped us keep the communication lines open.
It’s so important to get these conversations going early in an open and honest way. Girlology and Guyology are not a replacement for you talking to your child regularly as they experience changes, but it can serve as a jumpstart to facilitate a healthy, ongoing conversation.
Dr. Tara Bastek works for WakeMed Physician Practices – Neonatology and is board-certified in both pediatrics and neonatology.
3000 New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27610