A single father needs advice on how to deal with talking about personal issues with his daughter as a male himself. Do you have any advice to share in this week’s A Problem Shared?
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I’m a single father to two daughters after losing my wife three years ago. The girls are 5 and 7 years old and although life can be hard at times we cope really well as a family. As the girls are getting older I worry about things that I may not be able to deal with appropriately as a man. There are things they may not feel comfortable talking to me about. I know that I’m going to have to talk to my eldest about periods soon. I’m not sure at what age I should do this though, or how to start this conversation. I could ask a female member of the family to have this chat with her, but I feel that this is my role as her father and only parent.
The fact that I’m a man won’t be an issue for them I don’t think. They are used to talking to me about everything. But I do worry that I may not be able to answer all the questions that they might have. I also don’t want to have this conversation too early. What would be the right age to do this?
Our FamilyPoint reply
Thanks for getting in touch with Family Point. Firstly can I say that I’m sorry to hear about your loss. It sounds like you’re doing an amazing job with your daughters in spite of it being hard at times.
It’s understandable that you think there may be things, such as periods, that might be difficult for you to deal with. And there may be things that they don’t feel comfortable speaking to you about. From what you’ve said, your daughters are very comfortable talking to you about everything at the moment. This is really positive!
It’s possible that, as they grow older, they might still be happy to have conversations with you about periods, puberty, and relationships. However, it’s not uncommon for girls to prefer to talk about these things with a woman.
It takes a village…
You mentioned that you could ask a female member of the family to have this chat with your eldest, but that you feel it’s your role to do it. It’s understandable that you feel this responsibility, but there’s a good proverb that’s relevant here which says, “It takes a village to raise a child”.
Up until relatively recently, children nearly always had close ties with grand-parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all of whom were involved in their upbringing in one way or another. If you feel really strongly about wanting to do it yourself, you could consider raising the subject with your daughter and see if she’s comfortable talking about it. If you get a sense that she isn’t, you could ask her if she’d rather chat to one of your female relatives.
There are also some great books that you can buy (or borrow from a library) that tells children what they can expect when they go through puberty, including bodily changes and periods. You could show these to your daughter, here’s a couple:
In terms of the right age to have this conversation, the average age of girls having their first period is around 11. However some girls can start as early as 9 or 10. It’s probably best to raise it when your daughters are about 8 or 9 so that they are prepared and not taken by surprise. Research shows that a significant number of girls in the UK apparently start their periods before being told about the changes they will experience during puberty.
Lastly, here are a few resources for, and about, dads raising children alone. You might find these useful and, hopefully, supportive:
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