In the second part of this series, caregivers can learn ways to prepare their girls for puberty. On its own, the physical and emotional changes that accompany puberty can be anxiety provoking. If understood, children are better able to cope and are more likely to accurately understand what’s happening in their bodies and their worlds.
Girls can be particularly shy around the topic of puberty. Partly to blame is society’s influence on female image. Girls can be apprehensive about developing breasts and can be very concerned over manouevering their menstrual period in their daily activities.
As with boys, girls should be taught the stages of puberty. Girls tend to start puberty earlier than boys, somewhere around the ages of 8 or 9. Similarly with boys, the initial changes are hormonal and cannot be seen. From there, breast development and pubic hair arrive on the scene. Girls begin to experience a growth spurt at this stage, that can leave some self conscious as they grow as tall as or taller than their peers. Following this, the girl experiences menarche (the first menstural period).
At this time, parents tend to be perplexed on how to approach their girls’ changing bodies. It’s common for both the girls and their caregivers to experience embarassment and anxiety.
Other topics parents should be aware of and address with their growing girls are acne, body odor and changes in emotions. Hormonal changes are primarily to blame for these new developments and the more girls understand what’s going on with their bodies, the more at ease they’ll be.
Also important for parents to be aware of is Precocious Puberty, where these bodily changes occur earlier than with the average girl.
“In girls, the telltale signs of precocious puberty include any of the following before 7 or 8 years of age:
•pubic or underarm hair development
•rapid height growth — a growth “spurt”
•onset of menstruation
•”mature” body odor”
On the flipside, puberty can also be delayed, causing similar anxiety in girls whose friends have developed at a different rate than she’s experienced. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to start talking about puberty early.
Kid Link Alert:Body Science- Especially for Girls
To help in addressing the topic of puberty, caregivers can purchase books for their girls, including
-“Ready, Set, Grow!: A What’s Happening to My Body? Book for Younger Girls” by Lynda Madaras and Linda Davick
-“What’s Happening to Me? A Guide to Puberty” by Peter Mayle and Arthur Robins
-“Period.: A Girl’s Guide” by JoAnn Loulan, Bonnie Worthen, Marcia Quackenbush, and Chris Wold Dyrud
There are also videos available that offer answers to growing girls’ questions.
Finally, celebrate with your girl (without being an embarrassment during this sensitive stage). Caregivers can get creative and develop a tradition to mark the beginning of puberty (For example, my mother created “Women’s Day”, complete with shopping and dining out). This tradition may be passed on through generations and will symbolise the acknowledgment that your girl is becoming a woman.
Read More: Talking to Your Child About Puberty