Puberty Girl

Puberty Girl is the result of over a decade of working with girls in their teens (9-12 year olds) and wanting to offer these girls something they could use as a resource. I deeply hope that Puberty Girl is a book that girls would want to pick up and read out of their own interest and curiosity, and not because their parents said they should. It is filled with fantastic pictures and illustrations, facts, practical information, stories and anecdotes celebrating diversity and exploring our individual strengths, creativity, power and wisdom as budding girl-women of the world!

I feel that menstruation is so intrinsically part of who we are as women. Whether we have babies or not. Understanding, accepting and loving this deep part of ourselves is a crucial part of accepting and loving ourselves as women. For many women, puberty and menarche has often been a scarey, painful or lonely experience where they have felt unable to speak to anyone. They've wanted their daughter's transition into womanhood to be easier, more informed and more positive than their own. Puberty Girl uses language that is straightforward and accessible. It is also cheeky, using upbeat humour around a subject that has long been kept in the area of delicate, embarrassing and even shameful. I describe in detail all the biological changes that girls may start to experience in the build up to their periods as well as what to do once their period arrives.

I provide easy, practical information on how girls can choose and use pads and tampons and take positive steps in caring for their menstrual health particularly cramps and pmt. One of the biggest fears girls have is a loss of control around their bodies at menstruation: e.g. fear of getting their period at school and the blood staining their clothes. This seems connected to girls feeling shame and fear around menstrual blood, that it is dirty and that they have somehow lost control of their bodily function. In my book and in my groups I make a point of acknowledging and normalising this concern since so many girls share it. Then I bring in practical solutions in addressing this based on discussions in my groups over the years. Equally I make a point of reassuring girls that menstrual blood is the cleanest of all since it is nutrient rich and was intended for a baby to grow in.

Puberty Girl is about a lot more than menstruation. It includes practical tools, stories and information on body image,eating disorders and self esteem, dealing with conflict, personal hygiene and awareness of body boundaries and safe touch. The book refers to and uses diverse images of girls and body shape and invites girls to question and deconstruct representations of beauty. It invites girls in a friendly way to consider the choices they have in life and this starts with their attitudes and relationship to their menarche and their own bodies. I have specifically chosen not to write about sex and I feel that for many girls getting their periods is already somewhat abstract and a lot of information to take in. I wanted to honour their menarche and keep the focus on their transition which is such a deeply internal process. I do include information on masturbation as part of this personal, inner process. My deepest wish for girls reading my book is that they feel comforted, empowered and well informed around their changing bodies and changing mental and emotional experiences.

Words by Shushann Movsessian

Posted on 20 March 2005