Adventures In Puberty: Having “The Talk” (And The Best Book I’ve Found For Girls)

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“I never want to be an adult!” my Big Feels 8-year-old announced, and promptly burst into tears, two pages into reading Celebrate Your Body by Sonya Renee Taylor aloud with me, a book about puberty for girls and those who identify as such.

“There goes my Mother of the Year trophy,” I thought to myself as I sought to console my hysterical child.

Clearly that talk didn’t go as planned.

“The puberty talk” — similar to “the sex talk” — is really something you really want to get right. I had envisioned buying this perfect book and snuggling up with her in my perfectly made bed (lol) to read this book about how glorious our individual bodies are, bask in our womanhood, and maybe show her what a maxi-pad looks like. I just wanted her to be prepared and not wake up on her 12th birthday like I did, convinced that my kidneys were failing. (Not that my mom didn’t prepare me, but I was a tad fatalistic.) When the day finally came, my mom burst into tears when she realized I “had become a woman” and brought out this “Maiden Voyage” box she had purchased that came with, like, a period collector’s bracelet? Not sure how to describe it. Just know that the embarrassment and wishing I could shrink into my flannel nightgown like a turtle retracting into its shell is still burned into my memory.

Despite what you might think from reading this intro, I do highly recommend Celebrate Your Body, which is written with girls 8-12 in mind. My approach with any book on a heavy (pun slightly intended) subject is:

  1. Read the book by myself first.
  2. Decide if my kiddo is ready for the content.
  3. Consider questions my kid might ask and how I’m planning to answer them (Fair warning: they typically throw me a curveball. I tend to think it’s a great opportunity to show my kids that adults don’t know everything. I then look it up on my own or suggest we research together!)

The reasons I selected Celebrate Your Body instead of other books are: it’s inclusive, it uses scientific words, it teaches body positivity, it focuses on friends, health, emotions (all the things that are also in flux during puberty), it tackles diet culture head-on and discusses consent. All of this in an age-appropriate, matter-of-fact way. It arms young girls with knowledge, and that can be very liberating and empowering.

"I never want to be an adult!" my Big Feels 8-year-old announced & promptly burst into tears, 2 pages into reading Celebrate Your Body.
How wonderful is this exercise? All the feels. Image from Celebrate Your Body.

Back to my sobbing child, whose poor Elsa-hued skin is probably still blotchy from this sob-fest. Clearly we’re not going to read this book in order. Instead, I asked her how this book was making her feel.

“Scared,” she replied.

“That’s ok,” I said, “Puberty is nothing to be afraid of, but I get it. What if we skip to a later chapter? This one is about the food rainbow.”

“Oh” [sniffle] “kay,” she replied. We read the chapter on food, which led into the chapter about friendships. Then it was time for bed. I figured that was that.

She surprised me the next night by asking if we could keep reading. So, we picked up where we left off and went into sleep routines and exercise, and then the book was over. “That’s it,” I said moving to put the book on my nightstand, “We can always revisit the beginning chapters when you feel ready.”

“Why don’t we start reading them now?” she inquired.

I didn’t let my surprise show, but instead opened up the book and started from the beginning.

Because life is messy and so is puberty, sometimes the best-laid plans go awry. This wasn’t my “Hallmark Channel” moment, but what is parenting if not 18+ years of improvisation? I hope she doesn’t look back on this time with embarrassment. I hope when she grows up she remembers that her mom really cared.

Even if she didn’t always get it right.

And that diet culture is a capitalist sham.


I found Celebrate Your Body by Sonya Renee Taylor via Bookshop.org.

"I never want to be an adult!" my Big Feels 8-year-old announced & promptly burst into tears, 2 pages into reading Celebrate Your Body.
Image Source via Bookshop.org

X, Meredith

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31 COMMENTS

  1. Just bought this for my almost-8-year-old, and I LOVE the body positivity. Thanks for featuring it here!

  2. What a lovely post! Thank you for the recommendation. My daughter is also 8 and the oldest of three girls. She is growing and changing so much and I think it has been hard for her to grapple with the natural pulling away from her younger sisters that is happening right now. I’m so excited to read this with her!

    • Mine is the eldest of 3 as well! You named something I didn’t realize; my eldest is also sort of dealing with wanting to be a little girl but also clearly starting to have big feelings and needing more alone time, etc. I hope this is a wonderful bonding experience for you two!

  3. My middle daughter also burst into tears when she learned what a period was at probably age 9. She begged me to go to the doctor and take some medication so it wouldn’t happen. She matured a little bit and when she got her period at age 11, it was completely not a big deal to her at all. She’s a hoot! I think it’s so important for moms to talk about this, not just with our kids but with each other so thank you for this post!

  4. Thank you Meredith, this is exactly what I needed. I love the excerpt you shared; it’s spot on, and yet so difficult to articulate in a coherent manner sometimes. My 10-year old daughter just returned to in-person school twice weekly. Last week she remarked, warily, that “everyone changed so much” in the year apart. This book will help to foster conversation (and perhaps a few tears), I know. I really appreciate your thoughtful review.

  5. Love love love the realness in this post! As usual, you capture topics with humor and authenticity. While I work with a lot of girls, I have two boys of my own, the oldest of which is 12. Any ideas/recommendations about books/resources for him on this subject? We started having these talks a few years ago and I bought a few books then, but his typical response is “aww mom, staaaaaaahp!” I guess those are the breaks for having a therapist for a mom!

    • I also have a therapist for a mom so I relate to your kids? 😉 Thank you for the complement. I’ve heard good things about this book which focuses on puberty (doesn’t really go into sex): https://shopstyle.it/l/btiuj This book has also come highly recommended https://shopstyle.it/l/btivC From what I’ve found it seems like finding a book dedicated to puberty and one about sex is a good way to go. I’d also like to find more children’s books on gender itself. I’m curious about this book, if anyone’s read it: https://shopstyle.it/l/btivF

  6. My 10 year old knows what a period is but I’ve been thinking she could use a reminder and some more info. So, I am totally checking this book out.

    Also I think I love you. Diet culture is totally a capitalist sham.

    • I legit learned things from this book. No joke. It really goes into all the changes; budding breasts, bras (if you want to wear one), periods, etc. It’s incredible. Also, I love you back and I might get diet culture is a capitalist sham tattooed on my body or at least write it in permanent marker on my bathroom mirror so I never forget.

  7. I am actually looking forward to it in a ‘name it to tame it’ kind of way. It hadn’t really dawned on me that puberty and bigger changes might be starting and I agree with you. I’d rather face it now, gently and while winging it, than let her learn through friends or all alone!

  8. I have boys, and I’ll get them a book about their own bodies, but I also want to teach them about female bodies. So I’m thinking this would be a good book for that purpose. What do you think?

    • I’ve thought about using parts of this book for my son when he is older. It definitely goes into detail, it probably depends on your son. But, I think understanding what girls are going through, being compassionate and informed is always a good idea. I also think some of the parts about eating healthy, sleep and exercise are universal for all kids. Plus the diet culture and looks stuff. Good for boys to know what girls go through but also they aren’t immune to body pressure.

  9. Good job, Mama!
    I learned about puberty and periods at the 6th grade girl’s only film shown in school. I was shocked!! (My parents were divorced and my mom had lived in a different state by 3 or 4 years by then, never to be seen.)
    Looking back, I realized that I was the only one gasping and I later required the school nurse to give me further instruction when period time actually came for me.
    On a positive note, my now-adult children were all fully prepared for puberty! There was NO WAY I was going to allow them to learn about this from anyone other than me!
    This book looks amazing!

  10. Beautiful! When my mom told me what was about to happen to my body, I cried and left the room saying “I don’t like it!” It all worked out ok. hahaha Anyway, a friend who is a terrific artist has just had a book published about puberty. Check out her illustration and some Q and A’s ion Puberty is Gross but also Really Awesome on Amazon.

  11. Great idea for boys to know what girls are going through (and vice versa). Especially if he ever becomes a parent, he’ll (hopefully) learn a lot about female anatomy quickly. Maybe better that it’s not a surprise.

  12. Great to know! My daughter just turned 9, and I noticed that she gets stinkier sooner between showers. Changes are afoot… great to have a guide for conversations ahead.

  13. @beauty_redefined on Instagram has a wonderful approach to body positivity that can be taught from a young age – “my body is an instrument, not an ornament!” It’s all about what your body helps you do, not how it looks. Highly recommend. They just published a book too. I haven’t read it yet myself but it’s on my list.

  14. This is a great book! We have this one. And I just bought the second one (there’s a follow up for older girls) for my now almost 13 year old. We need to get into more details. Thank you!!

  15. We have loved this book too! My daughter is at the opposite end of the spectrum though and has asking me since she was three when her “nipples” will be big enough for one of THOSE, pointing to the laciest bras she could find in Target. She is so excited for all these changes, and I kind of wish I could find a book with this same positivity about menopause for myself.

    • OMG We do need a menopause book! There’s got to be one. Or, should we write it? I’d also like a book about how your period gets insane after kids/as you age and how common it is for women to get ablations because that was NOT something I knew!

  16. Whoa … I was not prepared to read that age 8 could be when my now 7.5-year-old could start going through changes! Thank you for this wake up call! This book sounds amazing. Thank you for the recommendation and just realness. You rock. And yes — we moms need support around this too! Sooo true!

    • I know. I keep looking at my 8 year old and seeing a baby. But she’s not a baby and I want to get to her before she starts hearing things at school. I want her to be prepared even if that changes how I look at her. It’s hard though. I get it and I totally feel you.

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