NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, October 23, 2015, 3:26 PM
Dr. Cara Natterson, a pediatrician, author and mother of two, recommends answering children’s questions honestly. She also advises against trying to be your chidren’s best friend.
It’s a fact of life that’s hard to talk about. Period.
No wonder so many parents and preteens have trouble discussing puberty.
But with puberty arriving at a younger age in girls, it’s now more important than ever to have the talk early.
“Where moms and daughters are still stuck, is how to talk about it,” says Cara Natterson, a pediatrician who wrote the “The Care & Keeping of Us,” American Girl’s new three-book collection that updates the brand’s earlier books on those awkward years.
For some dads, discussing the issue can be so daunting that they pass it onto their wives.
Howie Lindennbaum, a chief operating officer of a Manhattan company and father to 12-year-old twin girls, says he was fine skipping this conversation.
“I was happy to let Ann take the lead on it,” he says of his wife. “It’s challenging for fathers talking to daughters in that way because there is a lot going on with their bodies that a dad may not have experience with, whereas their mom certainly does.”
The updated American Girl book set — “How to Say it For Moms,” “How to Say It For Girls” and a journal, with questions for mother and daughter to answer — aims to make the dreaded chats easier.
“The newest thing was a focus on how to talk about it, how to say it,” Natterson says. “You don’t just have one talk; you need to have many talks over many years so you can connect in many ways.”
For conversation-starters, Natterson suggests beginning with, “This probably feels really embarrassing to talk about. I remember feeling embarrassed with my mom when talking about it. But I see you’re worried, and I’d like to help.”
She also warns against phrasings sure to cut the talk short: “This BF of yours.”
Most importantly, be aware of your daughter’s mood and pick the right time and place to talk.
And that time is earlier than ever.
“The Care & Keeping of Us” is part of a recently published boxed set book by American Girl from their “Care & Keeping of You” line.
According to the book “The New Puberty,” released last year: “A girl in 1860 got her first period around 16. A girl in 1920 got it around 14. Today she’s likely to have a first period closer to 12 1/2 years.”
For some moms, discussing puberty with their daughters comes easy.
Janet Vincent, an Upper East Side mom to a daughter, 13, drew from her training as a volunteer family planning counselor.
“I have been very open with my daughter about what was coming towards her,” Vincent says.
Garima Raheja, a single mother of a 9-year-old daughter in Millburn, N.J., started educating her daughter about puberty when she was 7, “because I had my period when I was 9 and I thought genetically she may have her period early.”
Raheja initially talked to her about plants, then mammals and then drew a picture of the birth process. “I showed her the pad and this is how you wear it,” Raheja says. “I told her this is healthy and unwanted things go out of your body.”
Cara Natterson says the books by American Girl, best known for its dolls, aim to help moms and daughters find the language for discussions.
That’s not always easy. Mom Gina Rotundo — a co-owner of Evolved Education, a tutoring company in New York — bought the book for her daughter, 13, to help bring up puberty.
“I left a lot of it up to the book,” she says. “She doesn’t participate. She just listens. I knew it was getting through when I heard her talking to her younger sister [about their bodies], who is almost five years younger.”
The books are scientific without being graphic, comforting without being cutesy.
Stephanie Starr, mom of girls 12 and 14, in Boca Raton, Florida, read the book with each of her daughters.
“We would do one chapter a night, a while ago,” Starr says. “It was our personal time together and they could pick whatever chapter they wanted. They would pick until we were done with the book.”