Mothering in Puberty: Making the Transition to Parenting a Young Woman


I am officially the mother of a young woman. She’s twelve, and we’ve been navigating the minefield of tweendom for a few years now. The last nine months, though, have been especially treacherous.

My baby got her period.

Once a month…

Yep. Aunt Flow is now visiting two-thirds of the human females in our household. To be fair, there were signs that she would soon be descending upon my eldest. One by one, her friends were starting to get their periods. My daughter herself started to have spotting and cramping every month. We were lucky because we had plenty of time to batten down the hatches before the proverbial storm hit.

I’ve got to admit that I was a little excited about getting her ready for battle. There are so many products these days that specifically target novice menstruators. Smaller packages, bright colors, a larger range of sizes… Where the heck were all of these when I was a young woman going through puberty?

I should buy stock in these now.

Of course, my excitement and my daughter’s disdain are inversely proportional to each other. I was so afraid that her eyes would stay stuck in the back of her head from the sheer force of her eye rolls at me. But my young woman was pretty cooperative when I suggested that we prepare a kit for her in case she was caught unawares and away from home when her period started.

That emergency kit set in motion a conversation about which type of hygiene products she preferred (pads or tampons) and why she didn’t want to try any alternatives, like eco-friendly reusable pads or cups or period underwear, at the moment. This could’ve been a pretty awkward situation, but I handled it with grace and poise. Just kidding — I didn’t trip and fall or stutter when I asked her if she wanted pads or tampons. Total win.

Making the emergency period kit also opened the door to some really good conversations about what exactly it means to have a period, physically and emotionally.

Emergency Period Kit
The emergency kit.

We talked about what her body will be going through when she has a cycle, and how she might feel as it happens. We also talked a little bit about sex and pregnancy. These conversations are helping shape the way I need to transition to viewing her as a young woman. We’re still having those conversations, so I’m hoping I’m doing it right. (For the record, she’s totally grossed out by boys still, and I’m praying that she’ll continue to be that way for at least 30 years.)

Finally, in September it happened. There was no way I could have ever prepared her for that moment. But once I finally calmed her down, I was the one who felt a little taken by surprise. My baby wasn’t really a baby anymore. She was a young woman. Her period, to me, was a physical sign that I had to start being a different kind of mom to her than I had always been. Up until then, my role had been to provide structure and guidance as she learned how to make good decisions and self-discipline.

I still have a lot of structure and guidance to provide her. My young woman is still a kid, after all. But as I look back over the last few months, I feel like it’s become easier to take a step back and let her work out big decisions for herself. She knows I’ll always be here to help her figure out what to do, but now it’s time for her to try it on her own in a safe and supportive environment. I may be a little biased, but she seems to have a pretty good head on her shoulders, and a good moral compass. I think she’ll be just fine as she navigates puberty and beyond.

Now… If only I could just get her younger sister to stop wishing she’d get her period soon.

parenting though puberty


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