Whether your daughter is a princess or tom boy, no matter how she expresses her precious self, she is one day going to become a woman.
Most girls start puberty between 10 & 11 years onwards, some even as young as 8 years. In this age of information overload the most important focus is preparing a girl for the changes to come; with the correct information shared in a respectful and compassionate manner. Timing is everything.
I was 11 when my Mum told me about the facts of life and puberty. She handled it very delicately and wisely, but I was still shocked that my Mum and Dad ‘did it’; it took me ages to get that picture out of my head. Times have changed and our preschoolers tend to be quite well informed about the birds and bees now, but there are more layers of information that they need to have clarity about and understand as they mature into teenagers.
Each family is unique and there are many traditions and differing points of view around puberty. I encourage parents to deliver this information in a matter of fact way, keep it simple and in perspective. If your daughter is asking questions about her body or showing changes in her behaviour, gently introduce the subject of puberty. As the role model in her life, the more relaxed and prepared you are, the easier the transition will be for her.
Here are 15 tips on girls and puberty to assist you at this amazing time; a celebration of wonder as she moves into womanhood.
- Be prepared with basic information and start off gently and only share what she needs to know as a fledgling just starting to take off.
- If she is open to discussion always verify what she thinks is true about how girls change in their teenage years. She needs facts not old wives tales or dramatic internet stories.
- Choosing the appropriate time and place to bring up embarrassing topics like masturbation and female wet dreams is crucial. The main point is to let her know this is normal behaviour and nothing to be ashamed of.
- Some details of how a girl’s body changes can ‘gross out’ many young girls, it can be very confronting especially if they are not ready to know and still enjoy being a young girl and are not interested in growing up. If this is the case, cease the conversation and sit back and enjoy her revelling in her childhood. Watch for the signs and try again later.
- You may notice changes in her height, body shape and breasts and weight, these are the most common signs that lead to puberty.
- Girl’s brains change and develop in a big way. All through puberty it is not just the physical journey to prepare for but hormonal changes, and tears of frustration and confusion. She is finding her new sense of self.
- Reassure your daughter of how incredible she is; unique and adored. Help her to focus on the wonder of herself, discourage comparing to others and show her how ‘Photoshop’ changes the images of women in the press.
- Discussing body image with young girls is actually a great starting point to bring up body changes and other puberty issues
- With delicacy teach her about menstruation, how why and when. Now she will know what all those crazy girl ads are about on TV when you explain tampons and pads.
- Girls as they mature also need to be taught about vaginal discharges and what is healthy and what is not. This is the perfect time to also emphasise the importance of personal hygiene.
- There are other changes to address such as an increase in perspiration, pubic and underarm hair growth, and changes in the oil glands which affect the skin and hair. Molars will push through in most children around 13 years also.
- She will need more sleep, and understanding, as her moods fluctuate. Acknowledge her feelings even if you don’t understand them; she may not want to be ‘fixed’, just listened to and heard. Don’t we all?
- What is on the surface and how she may behave will not always match what is happening on the inside. Be mindful that she may feel very torn between being a young woman and staying attached to being a little girl. A delicate time for everyone in the family.
- Research information about puberty together; make sure she has all the best information to prepare her for her journey into womanhood. Remember what is age and stage appropriate for your daughter; if she is overwhelmed by too much detail it may frighten her. Periods can sound like pretty scary stuff, let alone how babies are made and where they come out of.
- Your daughter’s school may offer talks for parents and children about puberty; this can be a great support in everyone’s education. Attending a talk can also assist parents in continuing the discussion at home and contributing your own cultural and spiritual thoughts.