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Girlology: Getting Her Prepared For Every Stage And Age [E031]

Starting ‘the talk’ with your kids can be tough and may be something you want to avoid. This week, we interview Dr. Karyn Fowler on a unique approach called Girlology – a physician facilitate platform. The program offers a safe and comfortable environment for parents and their children to learn age-appropriate, medically accurate, engaging and cringe-free messages about growing up safe, healthy and informed, especially when it comes to puberty and emerging sexuality.

Table Of Contents

Girlology: An Introduction

Girlology: An Introduction
Photographer: Ben White | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: All right. Here we are back in the studio. The podcast, The Wellness Connection Show. I’m Dr. Bryan, your host, and I’m real excited to … I’m actually outnumbered today. I’ve got a pair of females in the studio with me. I’m real excited to have a conversation around a subject matter that can really, really, really help a lot of parents, and young girls, and even young guys.

Dr. Bryan: Today I’m joined with my guest, Dr. Whitney

Dr. Whitney: Hello, everyone.

Dr. Bryan: And our expert on today’s discussion, Dr. Karyn Fowler. Hello, and welcome.

Dr. Karyn: Hello.

Dr. Bryan: This is episode number 31. As we say each time that we talk here, the purpose of this whole podcast is to help people get well and stay well as long as they possibly can. There’s a lot of dimensions to what it takes to actually being well and living a life where you’re healthy.

Dr. Bryan: One of the often overlooked components to staying well is how vitally important it is to have strong self esteem and emotional balance in our life.

Dr. Bryan: Dr. Karyn is really, really putting a lot of energy, in regard to helping young women shape their self-esteem in a much better way, that I’m excited for her to share the discussion and the influence that she’s having. It could hopefully bless a lot of people in today’s discussion.

Karyn’s Backstory and Her Work with Gilology

Karyn's Backstory and Her Work with Gilology
‘Photographer: Ani Kolleshi | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: Karyn, why don’t you give everybody an idea of your background, what you’ve been doing and how you’ve evolved to the point where you are now, with teaching this course.

Dr. Karyn: Yeah. So, thanks for having me by the way and thanks for giving me the opportunity to share with your listeners Girlology and Guyology, and the whole process, and the whole program because it means a lot to me.

Dr. Karyn: I have been an OB/GYN for almost 20 years. I can not even believe that. It will have been 18 years this year. I went into that specialty because I loved women’s health. Really what took me there was that I loved the intimacy that you have with your patient, and talking a very sensitive things. And I believed that a good women’s health practitioner had to meet people in a vulnerable place. And so that’s what took me to women’s health.

Dr. Karyn: Over the years, my patient base went from pregnant moms, to menopausal women, but where I really found even more value, maybe even unexpectedly, was in my younger patients. I started to build a practice in that you know my moms who were patients would bring in their daughters.

Dr. Karyn: Often times that conversation would end up like this, “Hey, Whitney. How are you today? Thanks for coming in.” Right? “How can I help you?” The daughter would look at me, and she’s day, “I don’t know. Mom brought me.” I’d look at mom and I’d say, “Mom, how can I help you guys today?” Sometimes the answer would be, “Well, we want to talk about birth control. I just want to start talking about what we talk about when we’re 15.”

Stumbling across Girlology

Dr. Karyn: Over the next number of years, I stumbled across this program called Girlology. This has been a nationwide program for the last number of years, started by Dr. Hutchison, who is a pediatrician out of South Carolina, and her friend Dr. Holmes, who is an OB/GYN. Together they found the same thing. Right?

Dr. Karyn: Pediatricians are having the same conversations, OB/GYN’s are having the same conversations, enabling young women to start understanding, and becoming smart, and quite honestly most importantly, empowering them to become good at talking about themselves, their bodies, and questions.

Dr. Karyn: So, when I stumbled across Girlology, I said, “Oh, okay this is what I’ve been doing in the office already.” What they had done was created a mother/daughter or parent/daughter platform, in which it started as a two hour program called “Girlology, Something New About You.” It’s a two hour program for not only the young women, but their parent. Often times it’s the mom.

Dr. Bryan: I was about to say, again, I would imagine most girls and guys get this discussion in PE class or health class at school, where they just start to learn a little bit more about their body, which is really awkward for a lot of us.

Dr. Karyn: Yes!

Dr. Bryan: And embarrassing, and not a real comfortable environment where you can share and have a open dialogue with other people that are really going to understand you. So, the platform or the program that you’re a part of now, really has probably opened the floodgates for young children to really be able to discover the truths of developments, while you’re in a safe environment.

Talking about your body doesn’t have to be embarrassing

Dr. Karyn: Right? Well, and here’s the thing, Bryan, you just said it. It can be embarrassing, and we never learn that it doesn’t have to be embarrassing.

Dr. Karyn: And so, what does that go into 10 years from now when we’re making tough decisions with our first love’s about some really tough decisions, that if you’re not embarrassed to talk about it, maybe will make the wrong decision, or maybe we won’t ask the right questions, or maybe we won’t know the people who really want to support us through that conversation. Right?

Dr. Whitney: You know, Karen, I love what you said. I hope our audience caught all of that, was that this is parent and young adult together.

Dr. Karyn: Yeah.

Dr. Whitney: We’ll talk a little bit more, but I experienced this with my daughter. That is so key because you got to think like Bryan just said, if your child, or your daughter, or son is in health class learning this, you’re not there.

Dr. Karyn: Right.

Dr. Whitney: So, you don’t know maybe … Not that you’re opposed to it. Not that it’s done in the wrong manner. It may be done in a great manner, but you don’t know that the conversations were had, you don’t know how things were framed or said. So, how are you going to follow-up and have those same conversations, and your child is looking at you with a weird eye like, “What? That’s not how it’s said or done.” You know?

Dr. Karyn: Right.

Dr. Whitney: So, I just think … We’ll get into that later. But that was a key element for me, was being there too.

Dr. Karyn: Yeah.

The Right Age To Have ‘The Talk’

The Right Age To Have 'The Talk'
Photographer: Rustic Vegan | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: A few things come to mind for me and questions for you both. I remember when you had the discussion with my wife Dr. Oliva, and then also with you Dr. Whitney about having our daughters come through this course. The reluctant scared father was like, “Man, they’re really young.” Right?

Dr. Whitney: Yeah.

Dr. Bryan: So, at what age do you suggest the discussion begins.

Dr. Karyn: So, Girlology has a saying, and it was one of the first things that hooked me. They say, “Eight is great.” Eight is great. When I first heard of that, I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Because I had a seven-year-old daughter, and I was like, “There’s no way I’m talking about … When she turns eight, I’m not going to talk to her about puberty, or all of those words that embarrass us.” I don’t know if I’m okay to say those words or not.

Dr. Karyn: Well, we can talk about the content a little bit. But the point was, eight is great because we know through studies, we know through elementary school education, and through talking with teachers, that kids are going to hear it one place or the other. It’s going to be whispered to them in their ear on the playground, and that information might be accurate, it might not be. But here’s the thing, it’s whispered because it’s not to be spoken, right?

Dr. Karyn: Or you can get to them before it’s exposed to them in that way, right? Before it’s introduced them to say, “I have a big secret to tell you.” It’s just earth-shattering. It can be completely different and wrong, right?

The Premise of a parent-child environment setting

Dr. Karyn: But you know, the whole premise to have a parent-child environment set that is safe, that is medically accurate, so it’s led by a physician, so you are getting the right information, and not only are we giving the right information but we’re also setting the table for you to have those conversations in the future.

Dr. Karyn: So, we set the table to say, “Okay. Today we’re going to talk about puberty or your changing bodies in Girlology or the male counterpart which is Guyology.”

Dr. Bryan: Yeah. I see you guys made it easy for me. With my boys now, I’m like, “I don’t have to have that conversation. I’ll just send them to this little course.” Right?

Dr. Karyn: Yeah. Which the content is different, right? Different parts. Puberty looks different with different boys and girls. But the premise and the spirit is the same, in that my job as a girlologist, is not only to give the information, but it’s also to teach you as parents, “Okay, how are we going to step into this together?”

The Top 10 List of Words

Dr. Karyn: So, let’s go into the content of it a little bit.

Dr. Bryan: Yeah! I’d love that, yeah.

Dr. Karyn: It helps people understand what I’m talking about.

Dr. Karyn: Like I said, it’s a two-hour program. And I should say that Girlology and the whole program spans from age eight up til the end of high school, so we cover the whole gamut, and run programs, and that.

Dr. Bryan: Okay.

Dr. Karyn: And we can talk about what kind of content is offered and how people can find out more later.

Dr. Karyn: But when we start with “Something New About You.” It’s ages eight to 12, really. Like I said, two-hour program with parent and child. I introduce myself. I appear as a physician. I have my white physician Girlology coat on so that people … I mean, young girls with identify with that. “Oh, that’s a doctor.” So, their paradigm of what I’m going to say, is set that way.

Dr. Karyn: But what we start to do is I have a Top 10. Do you remember this, Whitney?

Dr. Whitney: I do.

Dr. Karyn: I have a Top 10 list of words. I’m just like, “Guys, we’re going to get the giggles out right now.” I just break out and I say boobs, and I might say some other words.

Dr. Whitney: Right.

Dr. Karyn: Really what you’re doing is breaking the ice.

Dr. Bryan: The courses are not mixed. There’s not boys and girls?

Dr. Karyn: No.

Dr. Bryan: It’s all … Yeah.

Dr. Karyn: It’s all girls or it’s all boys because we talk about the specific-

Dr. Bryan: All right. So it makes it safe to be able to … Yeah.

Dr. Karyn: Yes.

Putting the buttons to work

Dr. Karyn: So, we break the ice, we get comfortable, we giggle a lot. I also start the conversation by saying, “Hey, this is not a lecture. Se are going to get through this together. We’re going to laugh. We’re going to do some silly things. And the people who are sitting next to you are here because they want to talk to you about it too.”

Dr. Karyn: Do you remember the buttons?

Dr. Whitney: Remind me, yes. As you tell the story, it will come back.

Dr. Karyn: Yes.

Dr. Karyn: One of the other things that we do in the first half hour, as we’re really kind of setting the table as I put it, is we give the girls these buttons. There’s an F and an O. And then, it’s crossed out in a big red slash. Right? It’s a button that symbolizes … The F and the O stands for freak out. We put a big red line through F and O because it symbolizes don’t freak out.

Dr. Karyn: It’s a button that we give everybody, and what I usually say is, “Hey, you guys have these buttons, and we’re going to talk about a lot of things that you might not know how to start that conversation today. But what we really want, is to start the conversation, but to move on from here on out. Today is not the only day that we’re going to be talking about that kind of stuff. So, kids when you have something that you’re really not sure how to talk to your parent about, or you’re not really sure how to bring it up, or you’re really nervous, or you don’t even know where to begin, just put the button on.” Right?

The button goes a long way

Dr. Karyn: Parents who are in the audience, “Here’s the pact that we have to make. When you see this button, you take a deep breath, you ground yourself, you remember your role as a parent, and what you’re doing here today, and you say, “Okay. It might be up to me to say, “Hey you’re wearing that button. Is there something you want to talk about?” And anything you say is okay, so let’s talk.”

Dr. Karyn: That goes a long way. I’ve had plenty of moms say, “You know what? I used that button last month.”

Dr. Whitney: That is great. You know, I have to say, we didn’t necessarily use it. What it did though, is it definitely created the space to be able to have those conversations.

Dr. Karyn: Yeah.

Dr. Whitney: I’ll just tell, actually a really funny story.

Dr. Whitney: My daughter was arms crossed, I’m dragging her in, she was mad she was there, she was mad the whole time, she was mad at me in the car afterwards. But you know what? It was one of those investments, truly an investment, where it did pay off, and here’s what I experienced. And she was, and she listened.

Dr. Whitney: The great thing about the format and what Karyn is talking about, because she’s so passionate about it and so good at it, is she still was able to engage in the format, regardless if she was embarrassed or arms crossed.

Dr. Whitney: And so now, it laid the groundwork for when these conversations did come up, without the button in our case, but we could have them, and the groundwork was laid.

Getting to know yourself takes many facets

Dr. Bryan: That’s well said. You just gave me the goosebumps. You also realize that it takes a long time for many of us to come this conclusion, but getting to know who you really are, in all aspects, not just who you think you are but, physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, in all contexts that’s what shapes and develops a healthy human spirit in many, many ways. I think if we hide from the subject matter, or skip it, or push it in a closet or a corner because we’re afraid of it, then we’re not allowing, basically our true self to be expressed, and our self-esteem to come through in the way that it deserves to do so.

Dr. Karyn: Right. Absolutely. And you know it’s funny, currently I work in a hospital. Right? I do a lot of patient safety work. I do a lot of those things. Time and time again, I am hit by the fact that the risk in our health, of the risk in what we have to loose, is in what goes unsaid. What don’t we say that causes risk to us?

Dr. Karyn: What don’t we know? What don’t we say? And in this case, what we don’t say to our youngsters about how they’re growing, and what they’re worthy of, and what’s okay to talk about, what goes unsaid, I mean look at their next 10 years. Look at how much, especially in this day and age, social media, bullying very different then when I was growing up. Right? The things they’re exposed to, how do you teach them to talk about that, and even just know to ask?

Girlology’s Expanded Curriculum

Girlology's Expanded Curriculum
Photographer: NeONBRAND | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: You mentioned the two-hour course structure.

Dr. Karyn: Yep.

Dr. Bryan: Is it two hours and you’re done or is there a phase one, phase two, phase three as you’re developing into different levels of development as a human.

Dr. Karyn: Yeah. So, Girlology has been growing. What I’ll say is there has been a curriculum of programs, like I said from ages eight to 18, that have been given in that class format in person, et cetera. But recently, over the past year, they’ve expanded their platform to a lot more digital. If you even visit the website Girlology.com, you can access schedules for in person classes that are in different regions throughout the US. Like I said, they’re in a good number of states. There’s also digital content, you can stream classes, there’s plenty of blogs, lots of resources.

Dr. Karyn: And recently, Doctor Hutchinson and Doctor Holmes have been doing video clips on one thing or another that are super helpful. You can find-

Dr. Bryan: Is there initiative at all, to try to get some of this work into schools?

Dr. Karyn: Yes. I would love to say … I think it’s a slower process. I’ll tell you as a local girlologist, I have approached a lot of school districts, and I think it has to be parent demand.

Dr. Bryan: Sure.

Dr. Karyn: So, I’ve done … Most of what I do right now, is just public access through our health system, but my hope is to get more into schools. I’ve been asked plenty of times, just need to connect the dots.

Dr. Bryan: Sure.

Dr. Bryan: You mentioned before, the course, it’s not necessarily just for the child but it’s for parents.

Girlology Is Not For You If…

Girlology Is Not For You If...
Photographer: Isaiah Rustad | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: Is there anybody the course is not for, in your opinion? Is there any exclusions? If you’re not open to X, then maybe this isn’t right for you?

Dr. Karyn: Yeah.

Dr. Bryan: Just because on the opposite end of these microphones there’s people out there that are all walks of life, some with their grandkids, some with their own kids, some of them maybe just youthfully going through the stages on their own.

Dr. Karyn: Yep.

Dr. Bryan: They may not be able to think this is pertinent to them, but it may be, “Okay, this is something I want my granddaughter to go through.”

Dr. Karyn: Oh, yeah.

Dr. Bryan: Do you see that kind of relationship happening, where other people come with their grandkids?

Dr. Karyn: Yeah. Let me talk about two things because you bring something else to mind, that I think is important to mention. Because on the other side of this mic is a whole gamut of people’s beliefs, right?

Dr. Bryan: Right.

Dr. Karyn: And do we talk about sex or do we not? What age do we start that? You know, all of that. So, I will say that, “Something New About You” which is the first program is puberty based. We don’t talk about those things, in terms of sex, birth control, all of the things that we feel might be more age-appropriate, and especially parent-guided.

Dr. Karyn: So, that first “Something New About You” is, like I said, it’s medically accurate information, that historically the three of us got in fifth grade health class.

Dr. Bryan: Right.

Girlology is a personal decision and family-based

Dr. Karyn: I think it’s important to highlight that as well because we are respectful. It’s a very personal decision, and it’s very family-based most of the time, hopefully.

Dr. Karyn: So, with that said, I think the audience … I’ll tell you, we’ve talked about the audience being very different. Not only from moms and daughters, dads and sons, I’ve had dads and daughters, I’ve had grandparents and daughters, I’ve had foster mom and kids.

Dr. Karyn: We talk about … I would love to see this content, and there is a need for girls and boys clubs. And areas where maybe a child’s confidant or trusted one might not be a parent. Right?

Dr. Whitney: Right. Right. And that dynamic and relationship. I remember in the class, there were many of those dynamics.

Dr. Karyn: Yeah.

Dr. Whitney: I remember a grandparent. I remember a dad there.

Dr. Karyn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Whitney: Just who is that trusted person in that person’s life.

Dr. Karyn: Yeah.

Dr. Whitney: Yeah.

The Conversations With Kids After Girgology

The Conversations With Kids After Girgology
Photographer: Sai De Silva | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: I don’t want to throw you under the bus completely. But I know Whitney you went through it with my wife. Obviously, Karyn was teaching. What was the conversation like after? I’m sure you and Olivia actually spoke a little bit. Maybe you, and Reese, and Carmen they all spoke. But what was the conversation like after this experience?

Dr. Whitney: Right. So, the conversations really … Once the fire fizzled, the conversations that I could bring up, and I loved having the terminology. The first one was about her first period. And so, what was she going to experience? I’m so glad and so thankful we had this because we were able to have conversations about her body was going to change, and what was going to come up, and be able to have those before they happened, and use the terminology.

Dr. Whitney: She was early. She was one of the first of her friends, so I knew that she and Carmen could have a mature conversation. I knew that I could have one. So, like I said, it’s amazing how it laid the groundwork. She’s noticed a difference. She’s noticed the difference and complains of it to me like, “Mom, my friends don’t understand. They make fun of it. They make fun of boobs, periods, or these things.”

Dr. Whitney: She just sees it in a very mature matter of fact light.

Dr. Karyn: Yeah.

Dr. Whitney: I now, I’m like, “Gosh, I wish all of her friends could have these kind of mature, accurate conversations,” and it wasn’t a joke.

Dr. Karyn: You demystified it, right?

Dr. Whitney: Right. Right.

Dr. Karyn: You got to her before the paradigm could be set, “Hey, this is secret stuff. It’s embarrassing. It’s uncomfortable.”

Better self-esteem due to better conversations

Dr. Karyn: And you imprinted on her before any of that happened.

Dr. Whitney: And self-esteem wise, I feel like she has a healthy self-esteem. She was the first out of her group of friends to go through this, as far as in her her school environment, she was able to do that and not feel ashamed or withdrawn.

Dr. Karyn: Yeah.

Dr. Whitney: We had no problems in the area.

Dr. Karyn: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great.

Dr. Whitney: So, thank you.

Dr. Karyn: I love that.

Dr. Bryan: Wow. That’s awesome. I think it gives both the child and the parent a giant advantage. You know, a giant advantage of developing in a safe open environment in your house, to let everybody go through the changes that their bodies are going to go through.

Closing Thoughts

Dr. Bryan: As we wrap this podcast up, I know you mentioned a couple times that they could find information on Girlology.com.

Dr. Karyn: It’s all right there.

Dr. Bryan: Regardless of where you are located when you’re listening to this, just go to that platform. Hopefully, you can find a local course or a local practitioner that’s hosting it. We’ll put this information in the show notes. And if you yourself are looking to go through it, I can single-handedly say as a father who didn’t go through it but actually saw the benefits in my own house, that yeah it was a little interesting. My daughter came back with a bag of goodies, and I was like so excited like, “What’s in there?”

Dr. Bryan: She was a little embarrassed to show me it was girl stuff, but I also saw that a light bulb had gone off. She was aware that, “Look, this is what’s going to happen. Now, I know what to anticipate, and I’m ready for it.” I think it was hugely effective to have her go through that. So, for that reason, selfishly I say thank you.

Dr. Karyn: Aw, I love it.

Dr. Bryan: That comes to a conclusion. That wraps up today’s episode. You can find this at thewellnessconnection.com/e31. Thank you so much Dr. Karyn Fowler for joining us today.

Dr. Karyn: Thank you for having me.

Dr. Bryan: Visit us at thewellnessconnection.com/podcast to subscribe to our show and get connected.

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