Explaining Puberty to a Young Girl
There comes a time in every parent of girls’ life that is anticipated and dreaded in perhaps equal amounts, and that is the onset of puberty. Suddenly, and in a way overnight, your little girl becomes a woman with all that implies and infers. She is starting the transition into sexual maturity, even though the emotional maturity which needs to accompany that sexual awareness is missing in a child of ten or twelve. As a parent you need to advise your daughter both on the practicalities and the emotional implications of what is happening to her.
Puberty for a young woman means growing pubic and armpit hair, growing breasts and the onset of menstruation, along with sexual feelings, confusion and teenage angst. Gone is the innocent little girl who plays with dolls and has no interest in boys, here comes the sassy, confused, sometimes irritable and irascible teenager battling pimples and raging hormones.
Girls are growing up in this way earlier and earlier, so it is essential for any good parent to prepare her reasonably early for what will happen to her. Of course there is no need to be lecturing a four year old about periods, but by the time a girl reaches 8 or 9 it would be wise to let her know a little more about the transition to womanhood. This is usually best coming from a mother, who has experienced all this herself, and can speak from personal experience. If the only parent available is male, then this does not preclude him from telling his daughter about what’s coming. There are excellent books on the subject which can enlighten her, and finding her another woman in whom to confide or ask questions would be a great idea.
It is to be hoped that the days when girls started their periods in fear of bleeding to death are over. When a girl sees traces of blood she should be prepared and ready, and fully understand what is going on, and that it is nothing to be afraid of. She should be educated in the use of sanitary products and be ready to deal with the issue of menstruation in a practical and pragmatic way. She should be pleased to be making the transition from child to woman, and you as a parent should be instrumental in this.
Menstruation is coming to girls earlier and earlier, and there are various theories as to why this is. Most of these are about the superior and more substantial nutrition available to Western children of late. Be ready in case your daughter “starts” at seven or eight, as it is very young for a girl to fully comprehend what is happening to her.
Breast development is another issue – be aware of this as young girls can become quite obsessed with this. Peer pressure can be fierce, and locker rooms abound with girls comparing themselves to their colleagues – she’s already got breasts, she’s wearing a bra, I have nothing there, what’s wrong with me, all this stuff. It should be a proud and pleasurable time between a mother and daughter when they go shopping for the girl’s first training bra.