Single parenting for dads: Those uncomfortable questions female daughters ask (and their mother could have answered)
Answers to common female daughter questions, to help out dad’s who are single parenting.
As every parent knows, children have a knack for asking embarrassing questions — and for asking them at the least opportune time, such as when your boss is over for a social visit. Faux pas aside, however, there are important questions to which your daughter deserves full answers as they’ll help shape her life choices and her opinion of herself, questions which, as a single father, it might be difficult to answer. Let this be a guide to all those female issues you never quite learned about along the way.
Menstruation, also called a woman’s period, is the shedding of the lining of her uterus every month that she has not been impregnated. It usually begins somewhere between the ages of eleven and sixteen, but assure your daughter that if it begins before or after, she is still normal. Know also that it might not come regularly for quite a while; often, girls will get one period and then have to wait quite a few months before it returns. This is only a reason to see a doctor if the periods are causing particularly severe pain or incapacitating difficulties (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) that she cannot seem to handle. Do note that there are sometimes hormone imbalances which cause the menstruation cycle to never settle down to a regular monthly rhythm and that doctors may recommend birth control pills to force her period to come once per month. In addition to regulating the period, this also makes each flow less heavy, causing reduced cramping and discomfort, though it has been known to make the user gain weight, particularly in her stomach and breasts.
Your daughter’s first period will usually show itself as a spot of blood on her underwear. Talk to her about it before it’s likely to occur, and assure her that it’s a healthy part of womanhood and that you can celebrate together when she gets it. Discuss the differences between pads — absorbent thin cloths with barely-there glue on one side which stay in a woman’s underwear to soak up the blood as it comes out — and tampons — wads of cotton which are gently inserted into the vagina so that the blood is soaked up inside the body instead of out. Assure her that tampons do not hurt, do not make her lose her virginity, and cannot be lost inside her. There are detailed directions on the box which she can follow. Understand that she will probably want to deal with all of this alone in the bathroom once the proper item has been purchased — leave her in privacy, but let her know afterwards that you’re proud of her and so glad she’s reached this milestone. Menstruation should never be talked of as disgusting or unclean, as such suggestion may skew her opinion of them for life.
Making certain your daughter has a female doctor is of the utmost importance as she approaches her teen years; it’s likely she’ll be much more comfortable that way. Also, it means any questions she isn’t sure about asking you will still be answered at her next doctor’s visit, without you having to deal with any awkwardness. Related to this is an obstetrician/gynocologist (again, if your daughter is more comfortable with it, let her choose a woman) who should examine her once a year; this is not only an opportunity for informed discussions of health and life choices, but also the best way to make sure she’s free from ailments. Less serious complaints, like vaginal itching, might leave you baffled, but a doctor can diagnose common issues like yeast infections and UTIs (urinary tract infections) which go away soon after treatment.
A woman’s body requires quite a number of vitamins and minerals to stay strong and vital. Check out the vitamin aisle at your local health food store, and consult the expert there about finding a multivitamin which would suit a growing young woman. Also be sure you’ve stocked your shelves at home with enough fruits, vegetables, and grains (without all the fat of pre-processed junk foods) to keep you both healthy.
A corollary to this issue is that of weight and weight loss. Discuss with your daughter, early and often, the pressures she feels from society to be thin. With the average supermodel at 5’11” and about 125 pounds and the average American woman at 5’5″ and 145 pounds, there is an enormous dichotomy putting unrealistic strain on females. This often develops into eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, but is even less visible as simply a body image disorder. Talk to your daughter about the impractical nature of the current female ‘ideal’ — Barbie-doll thin, tan, tall, and faux-buxom — and support her in eating healthy and exercising well while avoiding compulsive work-outs, binges/purges, or unsafe tanning. Let her know that you think she is beautiful and that anyone who doesn’t does not deserve her time.
Men may not enjoy them regularly, but women know that manicures, pedicures, facials, and other spa treatments can be wonderful, soothing experiences. Manicures (where a professional cleans, shapes, and paints her nails) are obviously more visible than pedicures (the same, but for her feet, usually also including callous removal and lotion) but both can be divine. Perhaps treat her to a facial (where the skin is pampered and pores cleaned out) for a special occasion — good grades, her birthday, her first period, prom — to show she deserves lots of respectful attention.
For these and other difficult questions, never be afraid to tell your daughter you aren’t entirely certain of an answer. Much better to find out together, exploring a well-written book or having lunch with a trusted female family friend, than to give false information because you want to save face. Your daughter will respect your honesty and continue the life-long dialogue you surely want to maintain. Good luck!
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