Did you know that today, girls are hitting puberty at a younger age than ever before?
With the age of onset of puberty continuing to decline, many girls are starting this very confusing, hormonally charged phase of life extremely young. According to current research, 30% of girls will start puberty by the age of 8.
It is extremely important for parents to recognize these changes, even if they are subtle – and begin communicating regularly about puberty and menstruation. Even if they are not happening to YOUR daughter, there is a good chance they are happening to some of her elementary school classmates. The sooner you can begin the dialect, the easier the facts of life will be to understand for your daughter.
Puberty is a topic few parents feel ready to explore. Regardless of your comfort level, it is important that you learn and pass along the basics to your son or daughter before puberty begins. If your child has started school, then the information that follows is relevant now.
Ready . . . Set . . . Grow!
Puberty is the phase of development when a child’s body transitions into an adult body, including the attainment of reproductive capabilities. During puberty, children experience considerable change: physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. This article focuses on the physical changes.
Back to School It seems like the need to be prepared for a new school year arrives a little earlier each summer. Before the first day arrives, there is much to do and many items to buy including:
adjusting bedtimes and morning routines,
purchasing school supplies, and
choosing an outfit for the first day.
If you have a daughter in elementary school, there should be at least one more item on your list: puberty education. While many parents imagine several years between their daughters learning to tie their shoes and needing to try on a bra, that gap is often much shorter.
1 in 7 Incoming Second Graders According to recent research, more than 1 in 7 seven year old girls (15%) and more than 1 in 4 eight year old girls (27%) have already started puberty.
Your daughter has started her period. Now, in the same place where the little girl with bows in her hair stood – is a pseudo woman. It can be bittersweet to realize just how fast your daughter is growing up. As a parent, it is extremely important to welcome the changes and to help your daughter transition into womanhood feeling accepted and loved.
It is also important to try and take a step back and realize what your daughter may be feeling. For so many girls, the onset of menstruation comes seemingly too early in life. Suddenly, they are dealing with extremely ‘adult’ things such as picking out bras and handling periods during a time in their life when they were perfectly comfortable dressing up Barbies and playing outside. In your daughter’s mind, the start of her periods alerts her to the fact that she is in fact growing up. And this realization can be both welcome and frightening for a young girl.
It can be difficult to feel like you are one of the only girls in your grade that hasn’t started her period or hasn’t seemed to ‘blossom’ yet. If you are what might be called a ‘late bloomer’ (I know, awkward term) it is normal to feel anxiety and worry that you are different, or that something is wrong with you!
But the best thing to do is put your worries aside – and realize that when it comes to puberty, there is no such thing as ‘normal!’ (Heck, you might even consider yourself lucky.)
Some girls start menstruating at the age of 8 or 9. Others may not start their periods until they are 15 or even 16. Some factors that can delay your first period are EXTREME exercise (meaning several times a week for several hours per day) and a diet that is lacking in vitamins and minerals.
When does it start? The majority of girls will experience breast development in elementary school. While some will begin as soon as 1st grade, most girls are a bit older (8-12 years old). The initial breast development, often called budding, is typically the first sign of puberty.
What should we expect? Not only will things begin to look different, they also will feel different too. Breast buds often begin as hard knots below the surface. The nipple and the darker area around the nipple, known as the areola, get darker and begin to poke out a bit creating a bump. While one may appear before the other, it is only a matter of weeks or months until the second arrives. Early on, it is also common for them to feel tender and/or itchy.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that your daughter is growing up. And for many fathers – watching their daughters hit puberty and go through so many changes so quickly is undeniably difficult. After all, this is Daddy’s little girl we are talking about.
Even so, it is important to know that in this day and age, 3 out of 10 girls are starting puberty at the young age of 8 years old. So what a daddy might see as his daughter pulling away from hugs and becoming increasingly self-conscious is really just a symptom of all the many changes that naturally come with puberty.
Believe it or not, as a father – you play a huge role in how comfortable your daughter is with her own femininity. Girls who have a loving, supportive, compassionate, and understanding father have been proven in numerous studies to have more self-confidence and perform better in school (and life!)
It’s easy as a father to sit back and allow mom, or another female role model to handle the particulars of periods – considering those things ‘woman’s stuff!” The problem is that if a girl in the midst of puberty sees her father avoiding the subject or throwing his hands over his ears every time someone mentions the word ‘period,’ the girl can often feel like her father is not accepting her transition to adulthood. And this can be a problem.
Remember that this transitionary time in your daughter’s life is confusing for HER too – and the last thing she needs is to feel unaccepted by those around her.
Get Ready Puberty isn’t a four letter word, nor is it something you should feel confident about ignoring until your child is older. Puberty may be arriving sooner rather than later for your child. Even if your child begins developing at a later age than most, he or she is likely to have friends who begin puberty early in elementary school. Did you know that recent research (2010) found that more than 1 in 7 seven year old girls (15%) and more than 1 in 4 eight year old girls (27%) had already started puberty?
What Is It? Puberty is the process of changing from a child to an adult, including the acquisition of reproductive capabilities. It is important to remember that this is not a single event; it is a multi-year process involving numerous milestones. During this stage of life children experience considerable change: physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially.
When Does It Begin? Typically puberty begins between seven and fourteen years of age in girls and between nine and fourteen years of age in boys. Every child experiences an individualized pubertal timeline. Both genetics and environment play roles in the age of onset. Gender also plays a role, causing girls to start puberty a few years before boys. By the end of elementary school, most girls have begun developing and are taller than the boys. Within a few years the boys not only catch up, but also surpass the girls in average height.