New Program at Riley Tables Puberty

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Adolescent gynecologist hosts discussion to get moms and daughters talking.

Puberty: It’s a sensitive topic that can cause strain. While some moms aren’t sure how to bring up all of its nuts and bolts, many young girls are too embarrassed to ask questions.

To assist parents with the process, Riley at IU Health recently partnered with Girlology, a program launched in South Carolina in 2003 by pediatrician Dr. Trish Hutchison and OBGYN Dr. Melisa Holmes with the goal of bringing parents and children together for honest conversations backed by medically accurate information. The program has now expanded to 10 states nationwide. One physician, Dr. Samantha Vilano, an adolescent gynecologist at Riley at IU Health, specializes in coaching young patients and their parents through difficult topics. She believes it is best when girls learn what to expect at home, rather than believing inaccurate puberty information from peers.

“When girls understand the changes happening with their bodies, they can face puberty with confidence,” explains Vilano. She said that she sees many patients who are worried about being different from their friends. Explaining that every person’s body develops differently, and that what they’re experiencing is completely normal, helps to ease anxiety.

As Indiana’s first certified Girlologist, Dr. Vilano also recently hosted a Girlology discussion for moms and daughters in grades four-five called Something New About You, the first in Girlology’s series of programs. Intended to normalize conversations about puberty, Dr. Vilano highlighted the body changes that come with puberty and why they are a necessary part of growing up. The discussion also covered nutrition, overall health and wellness and maintaining respect for self and others. Dr. Vilano said that without factual information, many girls are afraid of changes taking place in their bodies and are embarrassed to speak up.

Dr. Vilano began the discussion by assuring the girls that puberty is nothing to be embarrassed about. “Smart girls know about their body, and they are able to talk about it in a positive way,” she said.

She added that it’s important for them to feel comfortable talking with their moms about things they’re worried about or don’t fully understand. “When we're talking to our friends about puberty, sometimes we don't know all the right information, and it can sound kind of silly,” she said.

She also offered advice for moms who may be hesitant to talk to their daughters. “It’s important to give girls constructive, healthy ways to deal with what they’re feeling,” Vilano said. She urged moms to make time to for special one-on-one activities with their daughters to keep the line of communication open.

Amy Foster brought her nine-year-old daughter to the presentation to let her hear from an expert. Her daughter had recently come home with questions, but Foster said it has been tough to spark a meaningful conversation. She said the Girlology event was a nice introduction. “I think it’s helpful for my daughter to hear about the changes she can expect while I’m still present,” Foster said. “A lot of times, she gets embarrassed over certain words, and the conversation ends. Today, she didn’t tune it out.”

Dr. Vilano ended the discussion by encouraging moms and daughters to keep up the conversation at home. “You’re here with your mom because she wants to be part of this experience with you and wants to help,” Vilano said. “Take advantage of that.” Dr. Vilano hopes to offer more Girlology sessions in the future. To sign up for an event near you, check out Girlology events

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