As a man in his soon-to-be late 30s, I’m pretty far removed from puberty.
But from what I can remember, there were mostly a lot of pimples, a growth spurt or two, and awkwardly trying to find myself in middle and high school.
Overall, though, not a crazy experience and certainly nothing that required a lot of hand-holding.
Now, I have a daughter, and she’s starting to go through puberty, and I realize how much different the experience is for girls than boys. The worst thing I had to worry about was an erection at a bad time. For girls, a worst-case scenario is much more intense.
If you’re a dad raising girls like me, you may be wondering how to take care of them during puberty. And no, you can’t just pass off the responsibilities to her mom (although she will be better at some aspects, naturally).
While this isn’t necessarily a manual for dads on how to raise a daughter going through puberty, it is based on first-hand experience, so you can learn from my trials and tribulations.
1. Learn the Basics, Fast
Quick, answer these basic questions about female biology:
- At what age does a girl get her first period?
- How much blood does a woman lose on average during her period?
- How long does a period last?
- How often do pre-teens get periods?
- How do you apply a tampon, pad, or menstrual cup? Also, what’s the difference between each of these?
If you’re like most men, you’ll probably just turn into an IRL shrug emoji and give some random answer.
However, when you’re the adult, and your child is experiencing her first period, a shrug and a pat on the back aren’t going to help.
Ideally, you should be doing some research before her first period comes along, but even if you wait until the fireworks start, you need to brush up on your biology lessons. This way, you can be prepared for hard questions and potentially tricky situations.
By the way, the answers to those questions are:
- Usually around 12, but it can be sooner (as I found out).
- About two to three tablespoons, although some women can lose up to twice as much.
- Periods often last around four to five days, but women with heavy menstruation can experience a period for up to a week.
- For the first few years, a girl may not get a regular period, but by around 16, it should come every four to five weeks.
- A tampon, period pad, and menstrual cup are all designed to help catch or absorb blood as it exits the body. Each one has different application methods, as provided in the links.
2. Rely on the Women in Your Life
If you’re like me, you never had to discuss what it’s like to go through puberty as a girl.
You may have had some vague awareness of feminine products and “that time of the month,” but it was rare to go into too much detail.
So, as a father, I realized I was woefully unequipped to answer basic questions or even provide moral support. However, I knew where to turn – mostly my wife and my sister.
While I didn’t want to get too explicit with any of my questions, talking with them helped put my mind at ease and allowed me to feel more comfortable about the whole situation.
If you’re the type of guy who gets grossed out by the word period, now’s the time to suck it up and realize that it’s biology and nothing more.
Part of raising kids is learning about the “gross” side of human nature (like what it’s like to have a baby sneeze in your mouth), so you need to embrace it, not run away from it.
3. Learn More About Menstrual Products Than You Think You Need To
On the other hand, don’t rely on the women in your life too much.
At first, I thought that I wouldn’t have to handle any of the technical sides of puberty. My wife could show our daughter how to do things and answer specific questions she may have.
However, one incident showed me that it’s always better to be prepared.
My daughter and I were out running errands while my wife was at work (I work from home, and she’s in healthcare).
Suddenly, my daughter had her period, and I didn’t have anything she could use. We frantically ran to the store, but I had no idea about what to buy or even how to use it. Since when are there so many options for tampons and pads? What the heck are wings?
Since I couldn’t go into the bathroom with her, I had to look up how to apply these things and give her a crash course.
Fortunately, my wife had already gone over the basics, so it wasn’t totally alien to her. However, I knew that I would need to know more than I did so I could be ready for anything.
4. Be Supportive and Understanding
Puberty is a time of massive change, and the physical changes are only the beginning.
I thought I knew how to talk to my daughter before, but now that she’s going through puberty, everything has changed.
As parents, it’s natural to want things to stay the same, but we have to be adaptable for their sake.
Now, I know my daughter won’t be as talkative or outgoing, especially when she’s on her period.
(FamilyDoctor.org calls it a constant “storm of emotions.” Yikes.)
I could overreact and take offense, but I have to look at the situation from her perspective.
Any changes that I’m noticing are just the beginning of what’s going on beneath the surface. She’s now dealing with things she’s never experienced before, and now is not the time to add pressure or anxiety about how her actions will affect me.
Basically, I just let her know that I’m open to talking about anything and that I’m always available when she is. From there, the rest is up to her.
5. Be Prepared for Worst Case Scenarios
I mentioned having to scramble to find a pad at the grocery store on the fly, but now I keep a bag of them in my car, along with some other feminine supplies, just in case.
I also told my daughter to pack an extra set of clothes to keep in the car, as well as snacks, water, and hygiene products.
Puberty affects everyone differently, and you never know when something might happen. But luck favors the prepared, so it’s best to plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Now, if my daughter does have an incident, she doesn’t need to freak out about having to wear stained clothes or not having the right products on hand. That kind of peace of mind can go a long way toward making puberty a seamless experience.
6. Learn to Let Go of Your Expectations
If you had asked me what raising a daughter going through puberty would be like, my answer would have been wildly different than the reality.
I always assumed I wouldn’t have to deal that much with the nitty-gritty details, but I was right about the moodiness and lack of communication.
Beyond that, I also had to adapt to how these changes would affect how she looks, how she dresses, and how she talks.
She’s no longer my sweet little girl, but she’s coming into her own and learning to be her own independent person. She’s literally transforming in front of my eyes, and I didn’t realize how unprepared I was to say goodbye to that part of her life.
As much as I want that little girl back, I have to face reality.
7. Resist the Urge to Drop-Kick Any Boy Looking In Her Direction
As a father, it’s natural to be judgmental of any boy who even tries to talk to your daughter, no matter the age. However, now that she’s going through puberty, I know that those changes will start to attract a lot of attention from the opposite sex.
(This is about the time that breasts and hips start developing.)
Part of me wants to walk with her wherever she goes so I can ward off boys (both her age and, unfortunately, older men), but I also know that I can’t be with her at all times.
Instead, my best defense is to talk to her about what to expect and what those advances mean. The more she knows, the better prepared she is for any situation.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable to talk about these things with your child, but it’s also necessary. Otherwise, she’s going to seek answers elsewhere, and I can’t control what she learns about on her own.
8. Be Patient
Almost overnight, I had a girl who loved to talk about all kinds of topics and would always ask tons of questions, change into a quiet and mostly withdrawn person.
We would have conversations about anything and everything, but now it’s a chore to get her to open up about anything.
At first, this change was pretty frustrating, but I remember that I did a similar thing when I was going through puberty. I have to remind myself that it’s just a phase and that it will pass.
The worst thing I can do is push her away. Instead, I make an effort to include her and never feel offended or ashamed if she doesn’t like doing the same things as before.
Just as she’s navigating this new phase, I have to as well.
Jonathan Houston has been a freelance writer since 2014 and has been doing it full-time since 2021. He lives in Georgia and is trying to be a parent to two wonderful girls. He loves movies, food, and travel, although not necessarily in that order.