As a single dad, you need to accept that your little girl will start to grow up and prepare for the time when she starts to ask you questions about everything from periods to sex. You may be embarrassed, ill-informed or totally unprepared to answer these questions, but you are still a parent with a responsibility to help your daughter understand herself and the world as she grows up.
Here are a few handy tips for single parents on the right approach to take when answering these difficult questions:
1. Do your research – in advance! Obviously, you can’t always predict when a difficult question is flung at you out of the blue. You will be better prepared to answer it however if you’ve made the effort in advance to find out about all of those ‘feminine issues’ that you previously didn’t have a clue about. The better informed you are, the more helpful you can be and the less the temptation to make something up or evade the issue will be.
2. Be honest. It’s ok to omit overly explicit or confusing details when answering questions, but avoid the temptation to make something up – this can be even more confusing for a child. Also, if you don’t know the answer, admit that you don’t know just now but say that you’ll go and find out, then make sure to follow up on your promise.
3. Don’t be embarrassed, or you’ll make her embarrassed. If your daughter is talking to you about a potentially embarrassing topic, the last thing you should do is run away (or giggle like a schoolboy). You need to deal with these things in a sensible, mature way, and this will set the right example to her that she doesn’t need to be embarrassed.
4. Call in the help of a female friend or relative. It can be incredibly tough trying to explain a situation to your daughter that you haven’t been through yourself – with the menstrual cycle being the main example, of course. If your daughter asks, or you think she needs to know, make sure to read up on all the facts so that you can at least explain the science of what happens and so that you have an understanding of what your daughter will experience. However, when it comes to answering questions and talking from experience about these issues, it might be a good idea to refer your daughter to a female relative or friend (one she knows well). You’re not hiding from the issue by doing this – you’re just making sure your daughter has someone who understands to talk to.
5. Broach a difficult subject yourself. Your responsibility as a single parent is not just to respond when asked a question by your child, but also to spot when your child needs you to take the initiative. Daughters can often be embarrassed by the changes they experience as they grow up, and they seek to hide things from their dad. If you’ve spotted signs that your daughter is concealing something or struggling with an issue, you need to be brave and broach the issue yourself. If she won’t talk, let her know that you’ll be there if she does want to talk.
Let’s hope the practice is as straightforward as the theory – best of luck!