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I have been so pleased to see how many men have commented on my blog. While my book talks about mothers bonding over beauty, the definition of mother has become quite broad. In an age of both traditional and non-traditional families, a mother is no longer just the person who gave birth to the child. The job of mothering a young girl is also being done by many men who are either widowed, divorced, godfathers, grandfathers, uncles, or part of a same sex couple. So, I thought it was really important to reach out to men and show them that their gender does should not stop them from having a healthy open dialogue with their daughters.
In my book, I discuss the tween years when girls are about to go through puberty. For a man faced with a tween, it is often hard to know where the new boundaries are. When do you go out of the room when she gets dressed? What is appropriate attire for you to wear? How do you talk to her about her changing body without first hand experience? These are common questions with fairly simple answers.
By age 8, a man's behavior needs to be modified around his pre-pubescent daughter. A man should start to talk about privacy with his little girl and let her know she is becoming a big girl and it is no longer appropriate for her to be undressing in front of you. Men and older brothers should also not be parading around the house in their tightie whities. Pajama pants would be a better choice. Most importantly, teasing her about her changing body is completely off limits for adults as well as siblings. That has to be a hard and fast rule.
A man raising a daughter also needs to start to think about puberty and how to broach the topic. When you notice perspiration staining under her arms, or body odor it is time to talk to her about her changing body. Since this is a sensitive subject, a great way to start is to talk about yourself. Tell her how you remember being in 8th grade and noticing hair growing on your chest and how embarrassed you were. Ask her if her friends are wearing antiperspirant, shaving their legs, or wearing make-up. Stick to the less embarrassing things before getting into bras and menstruation. If you are having trouble getting her to talk to you, take a trip to the drugstore and stop by the lip gloss aisle and see if she would like some. This will make her feel you are a cool dad and respect she is getting older. If you think she needs to wear antiperspirant, stop by that aisle and tell her you hear Secret makes a great one and you once knew a beautiful girl who always wore it. Keep the conversation light and matter-of-fact.
When you finally get to the point where you need to discuss wearing a bra, menstruation, and her body's new capabilities try to do it in a way she feels comfortable. Ask her about her friends, tell her what to expect, and have lots of funny stories on hand to keep the conversation light. If you are not sure how to handle the questions about tampons and maxi-pads, I would take her to a female pediatrician and have her discuss it with her. There is a whole chapter in Bonding Over Beauty discussing exactly what to say and how to say it. Just be cool, calm, and let her lead the discussion.
I know its not easy. But, just because you don't talk about it, doesn't mean it isn't there like a big white elephant in the room. Best of luck during this time. Remember, if she talks to you when she is a tween, she is more likely to come to you later when the issues are more serious.
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