How to talk to your daughter about sex and her first pelvic exam

Every mom, guardian or dad knows that it’s important to have “the talk” and most of us dread that day’s arrival. If you’re in the “dreading it” camp, know that it’s possible that even an awkward attempt is a huge step in letting your daughter know you care more about her than you do about your own anxiety.

The worst case scenario is that you’ll both have a great story to tell at the end of it. The best? You’ll arm your daughter with important information she needs to know and open a door to more of these important conversations.

The harsh reality is that many of our little princesses are having sex by high school if not before. Once she’s reached junior high, it’s time you have at least a preliminary “talk” if not the full Monty. And if your daughter is having sex, she needs a pelvic exam.

A friend of mine claims this is a true story:

Her husband, who monitored their 11-year-old daughter’s iPhone, found she had been visiting pornographic sites that included still photos and videos of people of various ages having sex. When confronted about it, the girl shrugged and said, “Yeah. I use them when I masturbate.”

The family then had a frank and open conversation about how it was inappropriate for the girl to be tapping into porn because of the potential for those people to be exploited and the legal ramifications if her inspirational surfing took her to illegal waters.

It was a piece of cake for that mom to talk to her daughter about sex, to plumb the depths of when she needs her first pelvic exam and debate pads vs. tampons.

How to talk to your daughter about sex and her first pelvic examIf that kind of easy-breezy discussion were the norm, “the talk” would not be sitcom gold. Some of us can’t even verbalize the word “masturbate” let alone talk about it in-depth with your kid. Is my friend’s story even true? You’d have to know her to believe it, but I do.

On the other hand, I have a different friend who was supremely upset when her junior-high daughter got the deets on Santa. She’d shielded her because she believes kids today grow up too fast. She waited for blood to appear to talk about periods and she continues to live in fear that her kid will spend too much time with my other friend’s kid. She started saying, “That girl knows too much,” when the girls were still in preschool and if she could have kept them apart, she would have.

There is some indication that kids today are being more responsible when it comes to having sex. Credit for this is sketchy. It could be shows depicting teen moms. It could be better sex education. Chances are, you’re probably somewhere in the middle of my two extreme friends and don’t want to leave your daughter’s sex education to others.

Today’s Parent takes you through this age-by-age while this perspective from Inverse might startle you a bit.

KidsHealth has a great primer for your daughter’s first pelvic exam and experts agree that this exam isn’t necessary until she’s 21 or sexually active or is having pain or issues.

If you’d rather get information straight from in-person expert, her pediatrician or primary care doc can give great information on periods, her changing body, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and any other question she has about her body.

Once she’s started her period, your daughter should be used to being asked about her periods as part of her well child visits. Let her tell her own story to get her used to sharing personal information with her doctor. Help her become comfortable talking about discharge, vaginal pain or any questions she has.

Once she’s ready for the pelvic exam, walk her through the process as objectively as you can. Don’t scare her; prepare her so she’s prepared for the breast exam and speculum and be ready to hold her hand if she wants. Make the offer. You’re still her mom.

Here are a few more tips on how to prepare yourself:

DO:

  • Create a non-threatening space/ambiance. Consider doing it when you’re on a road trip – that way you can have your say without either of you having to make much eye contact. Even a short drive can get you started. Be prepared for resistance but don’t flinch. It’s easier to ignore the eye roll when you have to keep your eyes on the road.
  • Initiate the conversation but be prepared to listen.
  • Breathe. You may learn unexpected things.
  • Remember that you want this to be the beginning of the conversation; not the end.
  • Use your listening ears not your judge-y eyes.
  • Arm yourself: do your homework so you can answer obvious questions
  • Be prepared to do more research – together ideally – for questions you don’t know how to answer.
  • Let her decide whether she has a male or female gynecologist and trust her to tell you if she feels comfortable with the physician she chooses.

DON’T

  • Initiate the conversation when she’s with her friends or other family members or after you’ve had a fight.
  • Make a big production of it. Initiate the conversation and let it flow.
  • Panic if you learn something unexpected.
  • Make stuff up: Google is your friend here; don’t make it your enemy by having her discover you tried to scare her into avoiding sex.
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