Recently, as my little girl bounded off the school bus, it struck me that she is looking less and less like a little girl. At our annual physical, my pediatrician suggested that I might want to look into classes put on by Seattle Children's Hospital about puberty. Yikes! Were we there already? One look at my daughter who had burst into tears at the appointment wondering if she were "normal" told me yes.
My own attempt to talk to my daughter about puberty elicited an "Ew!" followed by resolute silence. Clearly I needed help.
I looked up the Great Conversations "For Girls Only" class online and registered us with ease. The class is recommended for girls ages 10 to 12. My daughter is a year early, but because she is joining the "hit parade of puberty" (as the presenter puts it) early, and our pediatrician had recommended it, they gave us the go-ahead to register and encouraged me to view the online content. The agenda is clearly laid out so you know exactly what you and your daughter will be learning about.
The class is divided into two consecutive weekly sessions. The first session is all about puberty and the second session is about what boys go through during puberty, decision-making, sex and sexuality.
I was relieved that the class was held in an auditorium with about 100 other people. This allowed my daughter (and me) the relative anonymity she wanted while learning about such intimate things.
On the Great Conversations website, the program creators encourage you to sign up by yourself, not as a big group. I noticed that girls who came with friends wanted to sit with them and giggle. The class is set up to help build a bridge of communication between mother (or adult caregiver) and girl, so I was really glad I'd come alone with my daughter.
After a few minutes, it was easy to see why these classes have been going on since the late 80s. The presenter put us at ease right away with a modified game of Pictionary. My daughter, who'd held a horrified expression on her face the whole ride there, was soon giggling and relaxed. I loved that the presentation included a discussion on positive body image, and a global perspective on issues such as body hair removal and bras.
I felt the class had a good balance of humor and also respect for the significance of the topic. There was a lot of giggling; at one point, even from me (somewhere inside I'm still 12 sometimes). I learned a great deal about how my daughter was feeling on various subjects as she nudged me during key discussion points (like hormones and feelings) and looked at me knowingly. I even learned a thing or two that I wish I'd known when I was her age. She and I had opportunities to ask anonymous questions on index cards and our presenter answered each and every one.
IF YOU GO
When and Where: Classes are offered throughout the year at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Seattle Children’s Hospital and in Tacoma at the Annie Wright School.
Contact: 206-789-2306; www.greatconversations.com.
I felt the information about sex during the second session was clear and appropriate. The presenter reminded families to continue the discussion at home with the inclusion of your family values on the topic.
At the end of the first class, I felt my daughter was prepared emotionally and physically (they gave each girl a little pouch with a pad, tampon, etc.) to handle her period. After the second session, she received a book titled Will Puberty Last My Whole Life? by Julie Metzger, RN, MN and Robert Lehman, MD so that we can continue to build on what she learned in class. We both filled out an evaluation at the end of class. When I peeked over at my daughter's evaluation, I was thrilled to see that she circled the highest rating of "really great."
If you are unsure of whether or not your daughter is ready for the class, or if you have additional questions, check out the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page on their website. Great Conversations also offers a "For Boys Only" class and a class for teens. Classes are offered in Bellevue, downtown Seattle and in Tacoma.