How Can Two Dads Prepare Their Daughter for Puberty?

How Can Two Dads Prepare Their Daughter for Puberty?

Our expert: Dr. Cara Natterson

Our resident expert on all things girls. She’s a board certified pediatrician, author of the best-selling book series The Care and Keeping of You, and travels the country speaking about health and wellness issues to both kids and parents.

I’m a father of five adopted children, and my husband and I have a daughter who is having issues with intermittent bed wetting (she wears diapers almost full-time) and is most likely getting her period soon. What I don’t know is how/if the bed wetting will affect her period, mostly from a hygienic and safety perspective.

In addition, we are also trying to prepare her for puberty by talking about body changes and sex education. Any suggestions for how two dads can help our daughter through this time in her life would be great!
I am glad you reached out because I have a few pieces of advice for you. First, please make sure that your daughter’s pediatrician is actively involved in conversations about bed wetting. While stress can certainly be the cause, there are other things that can contribute (like constipation, withholding bathroom breaks during the day, low grade urinary tract infections, diabetes, and issues with nerve pathways to the bladder) and need to be ruled out before stress is implicated as the cause. I don’t mean to worry you; I just want to make sure nothing physiological is being overlooked.

Second, there really is no order to secondary sex characteristic development. Hair, breasts, acne, body odor, and moodiness all come when they come, and their appearance does not necessarily signal the imminence of her period. Of course, based upon what you have described, I would guess that you are right and her body is getting ready, but there is no great predictor for when.

I have many friends and patients who live in homes with no gender-matched parent. When this is the case – and since you are 2 dads with a developing daughter, this is your case – books and safe resources are super important. I never recommend my own books because I think that’s just plain arrogant, but in your case I am going to because I cannot count the number of thank you’s I have received from dads who feel ill-equipped to cover these topics with their girls. The books are called The Care and Keeping of You and there are two editions: #1 is for younger girls and #2 is for older girls. I would suggest getting both and starting with #1 – there is a lot of basic information that you may find helpful, too. When she’s ready, she can go on to book #2. You can read them first (they are quick reads!) and let her know that you did so that she feels comfortable talking about questions she has. Or you can read them together.

Along those same lines, try to identify a female figure in her life to whom she can turn if the conversation is too embarrassing or difficult with you. Perhaps it is your mom-in-law, but it could also be someone younger if you think that’s more relatable.

And finally, the sex conversation is entirely different from the body conversation – that’s why sex isn’t covered in my books. I am a huge advocate of educating kids about sex, but understanding what is happening to the body right now has much more to do with self-esteem than sexual activity. If you focus on keeping the conversation open and keeping her sense of self elevated, you will have an easier time navigating these waters now and you may very well delay risk-taking behaviors (sex, drugs, etc.) later. So have these conversations first and the sex conversations will follow a little bit later.

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