Early in her practice as an OB-GYN, Dr. Melisa Holmes was shocked by how many women didn’t understand their bodies and how they worked. She wanted to change that, not just for adults but for young girls, too, so they could grow up armed with both facts and confidence to advocate for their health.
In 2003, a mom in her community asked Dr. Holmes if she would talk with her daughter’s soccer team about puberty. Dr. Holmes and her friend Trish Hutchison, a pediatrician, created an educational program for the girls and their caregivers. In addition to their professional experience, the two doctors are also mothers with five daughters between their two families. The program was such a hit, with repeated calls to present it again, that the two physicians knew they had struck a chord, and the digital health platform Girlology was born.
“Most parents today didn’t grow up with great education around health and wellness, especially reproductive health,” says Holmes. “They want to do a better job for their children as well as protect them from all the misinformation and ‘noise’ out there on social media. Through Girlology, we help young people get accurate, shame-free information that builds confidence and improves their ability to advocate for their own health and wellness.”
Girlology’s online community is dedicated to making girls’ lives healthier by providing medically accurate, shame-free information and support through short video tips, on-demand classes and live-streaming events. When the Girlology program began, Holmes noticed many of the moms were learning as much as the girls, and everyone was becoming much more comfortable having conversations about puberty and sexual health.
“There’s this sort of parenting cliff that we reach as moms—there’s tons of support and advice out there when our children are infants and toddlers, but suddenly as they’re heading into late childhood and adolescence, that support seems to go silent,” says Holmes. “We feel like we’re filling in that gap.”
Girlology supports parents as their daughter’s most trusted guide, providing families access to hundreds of tips and classes to navigate every health and body topic that could come up during adolescence and puberty. The content is relatable with a touch of fun and humor. From bra shopping and skin care secrets to period solutions, eating disorders prevention and even friendship, Holmes and Hutchison, who call themselves the “Mom Docs,” guide families through every age and stage of girl life.
“We hear from a lot of moms how we’ve improved the way they communicate and connect with their children,” says Holmes. “That’s one of the most important things we can do, because there’s a lot of research confirming that parent-child connection is incredibly protective for adolescents’ health and wellness. We all want to raise informed, confident and healthy children—we’re grateful that so many families trust us to be that resource.”
As the content continues to expand, Holmes says the volume can get overwhelming for families. So Girlology has recently created a “Quick Start Guide” with suggested playlists to help families easily locate the content the physicians believe is most essential for each age and stage of development, based loosely on third through eighth grades. This resource helps caregivers know what their kids should be learning at each age, plus what’s coming next.
Over the years since Girlology’s launch, Holmes and Hutchison have expanded the content to cover topics like body image, media literacy and mental health. They also launched Guyology in 2012, a parallel program on boys’ health and puberty. The physicians have also written five Girlology and Guyology books, with their sixth book releasing this spring. “You-ology: A Puberty Guide for Every Body” is the first book of its kind, published in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics, embracing an inclusive gender-affirming approach and normalizing puberty for all kids through fact-based, age-appropriate and body positive information about the physical, social and emotional changes of puberty.
Especially after launching Guyology, it quickly became apparent to the physicians that all young people have similar questions and curiosities about their own bodies but also about bodies that are different than their own. Holmes and Hutchison have long encouraged parents to let their daughters read Guyology and their sons read Girlology, but writing You-ology was the next step to create a more inclusive community that embraces families with gender diverse children.
“Every child is wonderfully curious and loves learning how the body works and grows,” said Holmes. “We explain the physical and emotional changes of puberty in kid-friendly language. That means boys, girls and gender-diverse kids can all understand each other better. When children understand what their peers experience, they grow up more empathetic and supportive. This understanding helps grow respect for all and creates a better world for everyone.”
Girlology provides a substantial amount of free content through their social channels and newsletter. Plus, they offer an on-demand video library for members, with monthly or yearly membership options available. Visit girlology.com for details.
This article originally ran on MetroFamilyMagazine.com.