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How to Survive Puberty From a Been-There-Done-That Mom

Photograph by Twenty20

We've all muddled through puberty—been there, done that. While most of us might not remember all of the specific details of our own journey toward womanhood, there are likely some episodes we'll never forget. But these memories and stories take on a whole new meaning when you have a daughter of your own. My own mom was always there for my questions, but I think I was too embarrassed to ask very many. Pretty sure she's thankful for that.

I was determined to share the good, the bad and the ugly when my daughter was old enough. The jury's still out on whether I said and did just the right things.

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1. I showed her books from my childhood

I think I was a bit shocked—and fascinated—by the cutting-edge cartoon book "Where Did I Come From?" that appeared on our home bookshelf back when I was a tween. Grabbing a book and disappearing into my room gave me the privacy I needed to figure this whole puberty thing out. "Teen" and "Seventeen" magazines became my BFFs, sharing info on everything from dating to periods in the privacy of my bedroom. When my daughter was a tween I ordered "The Care & Keeping of You" to cover the basics of puberty and I'll admit to showing her the book from my childhood for a few laughs. Naked middle-aged cartoon people are a sobering experience for a tween facing puberty.

2. Don't make my mistake and stock up!

I will never forget the moment my daughter realized that at my age I was still having periods. It was like her whole life flashed before her eyes.

I recently came across the diary I filled with my thoughts and fears when I was 11 or 12 years old. Pages upon pages were filled with musings about my impending jump into puberty. My mom had graciously ordered a 'Welcome to Your Period!' kit from one of the major feminine hygiene companies; it's like having a membership in an elite society. I excitedly wrote about a time when my mom traveled to visit my ailing grandmother and how she bought me some pads "just in case" I got my first period when she was gone. Problem was, I waited three long years after that for my induction. Fast forward 30 years. Thinking I would outsmart hormones I purposely didn't stock up on anything for my daughter, which of course meant we were totally unprepared. Puberty, 1. Mom, 0.

3. Be straightforward

There are some great resources out there for parents of tweens and teens these days to help wade through the truth without scaring anyone. VProud and HelloFlo have produced an awesome online class called 'Parenting Through Puberty' taught by pediatrician and author Dr. Cara Natterson—who coincidentally is the author of the newly-revised "The Care & Keeping of You" book series. I would have loved some straightforward advice and information like this back when I was wading through Google search results and trying to sort it all out. The site PBS Kids has a cool section called "It's My Life" that has some basic information on puberty that isn't too preachy for your tween. Finding the right books or websites that speak to you and your daughter can make this whole transition so much easier. For both of you.

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One of my biggest challenges was to mix honesty with facts. I didn't want my daughter to think becoming a woman was all rainbows and lattes. Let's face it, periods are kinda gross. I will never forget the moment my daughter realized that at my age I was still having periods. It was like her whole life flashed before her eyes. Why sugar-coat reality, right? Still, I felt kind of bad for her.

Parents of elementary school kids be warned: Puberty is coming. Lucky for you there are some great resources out there to keep you from being as unhelpful as I was.

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