After my daughter turned 12 last summer, I knew it was time to start talking more with her about puberty.

She was changing both physically and emotionally. Where do I start?

Woman’s Hospital registered nurse Meghan Bardwell helped me find the answers after my daughter and I attended her 90-minute class, Body Basics for Girls.

Bardwell shared some straight-from-the-hip stories about her own challenges as a teen and preteen girl.

Girls who were nervous and uncomfortable at the beginning of Bardwell’s lecture soon became engaged and inquisitive.

My daughter begged me not to raise my hand as Bardwell questioned us about what changes occur to a girl’s body during puberty. I kept silent for my daughter’s sake. But soon into the discussion, Bardwell separated the daughters from mothers, a good move because my daughter looked embarrassed sitting beside me.

She walked the girls through a presentation about body changes: from growing taller, starting a menstrual cycle, getting pimples and developing body odor, to male and female anatomy.

Screams and “yucks” came from a row of 9- and 10-year-old girls during the anatomy discussion.

I turned my head to find nearly all of the mothers giggling as we watched our daughters reacting to the slide show.

Bardwell urged the girls to take care of their bodies and to eat and rest properly, and urged the moms to talk to their girls.

She also addressed issues of character, reminding girls to avoid teasing, but rather to “stick together and uplift one another.”

Woman’s Hospital offers Body Basics classes year-round for girls and boys, said Angela Hammett, registered nurse and coordinator of Body Basics.

“The classes help to open the doors of communication between the parent or guardian and child,” she said.

Hammett said it is not unusual for some parents to feel hesitant to talk about puberty and body changes with their preteen.

“It feels weird to start those conversations,” she said.“The class gives parents confidence, and it opens up the line of conversation.”

Following the class, I asked my daughter if she had any questions for me, and she did. We continued our conversation at a restaurant where I told her about my first crush in middle school.

She laughed in disbelief. But I reminded her I was once 12, also.

“You can talk to me about anything,” I reminded her.

Hammett said it best.

“Listen to your children and let them lead the discussion,” she said. “Answer their questions appropriately and honestly.”

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at