Recent studies show that young girls are entering puberty earlier than ever before. It used to be that parents had until the 10 to 13 age range to teach their daughters about puberty.
According to Paige Hertweck, M.D., pediatric and adolescent gynecologist with Norton Children’s Hospital Gynecology Specialists, girls are developing breasts and pubic hair as early as age 6 and are dealing with the emotional aspects of puberty too. Although pinpointing the exact reason for early onset is difficult and varies in each girl, it means parents have less time to prepare their daughters — and themselves — for “the talk.”
“As parents, we have a much smaller window of time to teach our daughters what it is like to become an adult and how to manage these changes,” Dr. Hertweck said. “It is our job to give our daughters the best information possible.”
Here are some tips on how to make that happen:
- Begin talking about puberty at an early age. Though you may think around 6 years old is too early to introduce puberty, begin talking about the first signs of changes that may occur, such as getting taller, body odor and breast development. Once these changes begin, start talking about acne, menstruation and sex.
- Be honest and open. Don’t be afraid to initiate the conversation with your daughter. She may be embarrassed to come to you with questions. If you feel like your daughter is not comfortable talking to you, consider setting up an appointment for her to talk with a female doctor. Getting your daughter the best information possible will help her understand the effects puberty will have on her body rather than learning from friends or unreliable sources.
- Offer support. Puberty, menstruation, emotions and sex can be embarrassing to talk about for young girls. They may become insecure with their bodies, especially if they are beginning puberty much earlier than their friends or classmates. Reassure your daughter that these changes are natural and they will happen to everyone, just at different times.
“If you have trouble opening up to your daughter or she won’t talk to you, offer her other resources. This is not the time to brush it off or ignore what’s happening,” Dr. Hertweck said. “Growing up is just a part of life, and we need to prepare our families in a healthy way.”
Dr. Hertweck recommends these resources for more information: KidsHealth.org and the books “The Care and Keeping of You” volumes 1 and 2.