Puberty: What’s Happening to My Daughter?!?
Tween Girls Ages 8-12
At a blink of an eye, the baby girl you once knew as an innocent precious princess will experience the confusing process of puberty. Knowing what to look for can ease your mind (kind of) and hopefully help your tween through these enormous physical and emotional changes. While some of the signs of puberty may take a while to develop, others may appear as if they happened overnight. It’s time to buckle up as you may be ready to ride on a rollarcoaster.
There are many signs of puberty in girls. Keep in mind that these stages may appear gradually, and it may take three to four years for your child to cycle through all the phases of puberty.
Having a discussion with your daughters regarding the symptoms and signs of puberty can give her a heads-up for future changes both mentally and physically. Most kids today have already heard at least “something” in the arena of puberty, but you want to be the one who offers correct information as well as be her “go to” when she has questions or concerns.
- Growth Spurts. You may notice girls today grow faster than their patents did at their age. Their hands and feet get bigger, and then the arm and leg bones, making them taller. Fatty tissue can begin to develop around the hips and thighs causing a curvier body shape. Weight gain is common so the body can catch up to the rest of the body.
- Breast Development. This can sometimes cause dads to hit the panic button, begin to detest all boys, and lock girls in their bedrooms. The breasts begin with little buds or swellings under the nipple area. Breasts gradually get bigger and fuller and may become a little sore. Wearing a bra will be important for support as well as coverage. Breasts typically take 2-3 years to fully develop.
- Breakouts and Pimples. Some kids have more of a problem with acne than others, but almost all teenage boys will break out with pimples from time to time. This is because their skin becomes oilier due to increased hormones. Teaching kids how to wash, moisturize and sunscreen their faces is important at this age. If your child begins to breakout more than what is normal, seek a dermatologist for care.
- Body Hair: Hair begins to grow on the pubic area, many times before the breasts begin to develop. Pubic hair generally takes 2-3 years to fully develop. Underarm hair will begin growing after the pubic hair begins.
- Body Sweat. Body odor due to bodily functions can begin. A direct conversation about daily body care is imperative.
- Genitals Develop. Genitals change and grow. The vulva becomes larger and the uterus is getting bigger.
- Discharge. Clear or cloudy fluid begins to be produced to moisten and cleanse the vagina. Prior to girls beginning their menstrual cycle, yellow or white stains can be seen inside underwear and can alarm young girls if they are not educated about this process. This is natural and a sign that ministration will likely take place in 6 to 18 months. If the discharge is white, clumpy, thick or milky, this can be due to a yeast infection and a medical care will be needed.
- Menstruation. Menstruation typically begins around the age of 12. It can take 1-2 years for cycles to develop on a regular basis. Cycles can be unpredictable for the first two years. When girls are educated on the process, acceptance and understanding is much easier. Not talking to your daughters only set them up for unneeded alarm, fear and sometimes panic. Discussing a plan of action and the supplies needed assists the entire family for this upcoming natural event.
- Moods. Mood swings may begin, punctuated with bouts of anger, sadness, and other emotional fluctuations. The roller coaster ride has begun so it is wise to realize this is not your imagination and the emotions are very real to your daughter. Discounting her feelings only causes conflict. On the other hand, feeding into inappropriateness or disrespect from your daughter should not be tolerated. Tiredness, sadness, irritability, anger and anxiety may occur along with self-consciousness.
- Romantic Feelings and Interest. She notices boys, and more than likely wants to be noticed. She may vacillate between waning boys to look at her to being embarrassed and angry when they do.
- Feelings. Anxiety and/or excitement about the changes she is going through will be evident, more than likely in her mood swings. She has entered the Twilight Zone and her emotions are not familiar to her and cause her massive amounts of confusion. Most things are the “parents’ fault” so be forewarned now.
- Worry or Concern. Concerns over increased responsibility, fitting in socially and separating from her parents. This is the “I am grown” on one side and the “I need you to do….” On the other side. How her peers view her is vitally important and her standing out by being odd or different is generally not a positive in her world.
Reactions to Puberty
Reactions to puberty will vary from girl to girl. Some may be excited about puberty and look forward to becoming “grown” and have a positive outlook on the process. Others may feel they are now grown and can dress, behave and live like the 16-year old down the street. There are also the girls who feel the whole process is a pain in the butt and they don’t have time for periods, bras, boobs, and gross pubic hair. The group of girls who experience sheer terror about every single aspect of puberty are the girls who have not been educated by a trustworthy adult or even worse, by a kid of her own age, a pedophile, or the first boy she likes.
Don’t overdo the talk. Don’t sit her down and make her feel the way women feel the first time we go to the gynecologist. Be direct and nonchalant yet be factual. Let her know this is a normal part of growing up and you will be her “go to” person during this time.
Quick Tips for Parents
- Be open to questions. Don’t acted shocked or embarrassed. Don’t push the panic button or for God’s sake, cry when she starts her first period. Be prepared to answer questions before they arise. If you daughter doesn’t ask questions, then answer them anyway.
- Talk to your daughter. If you are embarrassed or “just can’t do it”, suck it up. If you don’t, someone else will. It is not the school or churches role and if you can’t handle it, you need to get over yourself…even when she cuts you off, says, “I already know”, or “Yuck, stop” …don’t stop.
- Be aware of the changes. It is very easy in our busy lives to become accustomed to people we are around every day. Take a few moments every now and then to really look at your daughter and note any changes in her body or attitude. The signs may be right there, and you may notice them before she does. More than likely though, you won’t need to take a close look. It will be right there in your face but you won’t realize it is actually puberty and there is a reason she is acting like a monster who has surfaced from someone else’s house, not yours.
- Give her space. It is difficult to know when to back off. It is a roller-coaster and she too doesn’t know from one second to the other what she really wants. She may ask you to take her to go get new shoes in one second, only to follow-up with, “Leave me alone, I can’t stand you”. Learn there are times to talk and times you need to shut your mouth and let her be. Space can do wonders for girls. Let her pout, throw a fit, cry, or slam the door but circle back and have a discussion when you are not wanting to kick her little butt.
- Pay attention to body image issues. This is especially important for girls because there are stereotypes of what a woman should look like. Just turn on a computer, look at your phone, watch TV, or look around at her school. It is all there. Screaming at her, telling her how to look and dress. As crazy as we all know it ca be, young girls pay attention to it all. Striving for the perfect body, especially while it’s going through the changes of puberty, can lead to bigger problems like eating disorders down the road.
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