Preparing for puberty
Puberty for girls typically starts around 11 or 12 years old. It is, however, not uncommon for girls to start puberty earlier at 9 or 10 years old.
Start the talk about puberty early to prepare her for the upcoming changes. This will allow her to anticipate the changes ahead instead of being caught by surprise when she gets her first period.
Providing information in a factual and natural manner through on-going talks can ease her anxiety about puberty and accept that it is a natural (and healthy!) stage of development. You can talk about how her body will change as she grows from a girl into a young lady. Allow her to ask questions and clarify concerns she may have heard from others.
Your daughter may worry about whether menstruation will be troublesome, uncomfortable, and painful. You could help reframe her thoughts about this so she feels more positively about such changes. Share about the wonders of how her body is developing and preparing her for womanhood, opening up the possibility of motherhood in the future. Keep an encouraging tone as your attitude will influence how comfortable she is about her body.
A practical way to get your daughter ready for puberty is shopping for training bras and period underwear. The appearance of breast buds is the first sign before the start of menstruation. She may feel shy or awkward at first but explain that this is a rite of passage and that it is completely normal to feel these emotions.
Changes to expect at puberty
At puberty, girls will develop breasts, grow hair under their arms and on their legs, shoot up in height and experience their first period. Other physical changes that may be noticeable at puberty are oily skin, pimples on the face, wider hips and body odour.
Before your child experiences her first period, be sure she has a supply of sanitary pads or tampons at hand. Talk to her about how to use them, how often to change them and to pack them in her bag so she is prepared.
Avoid scaring her about cramps or mood swings and teach her there is nothing to be embarrassed about periods. Teach her to take care of her personal hygiene that includes using a face wash, pimple cream, and deodorant.
Managing emotional changes
During puberty, another noticeable change in girls is mood swings. Your daughter may find it very confusing and irrational to swing from being happy one moment, then sad the next.
Be patient with her and assure her that it is due in part to her brain development at puberty. As a teen’s prefrontal cortex is still developing, your daughter will rely more on her amygdala, a part of the brain associated with emotions and impulses.
You can remind your daughter that while she may experience moodiness, it is not an excuse to be rude or unkind in her words and behaviour. Teach her to build her self-awareness and take charge of her feelings with practical tips like breathing exercises, listening to music, taking a shower, or going for a walk. Bear in mind the tween stage is also when environmental stress starts to build up with greater academic pressure on the school front. Assure her that you are there for her to give support without any judgement.
Different teens may experience puberty earlier or later. If your daughter has not started puberty, put her mind at ease by reminding her that everyone is unique.
This is a fitting time to start talking to your daughter about identity, self-esteem and self-worth as teenage girls may become more conscious of their appearance and weight. This could be exacerbated if she is already exposed to social media messages that glamourise beauty and popularity.
For mothers, building a healthy body image for our teens may start with accepting and embracing our own body. Often, children catch what we say rather than what we teach. Let your daughter hear you compliment other women for their virtues instead of appearance. Point out her character strengths that are beyond skin deep and that may go unnoticed. These messages will remind her that self-confidence comes from within and she is so much more than how she looks. In the teenage phase, your child may start to have feelings of attraction for the opposite sex. Have talks with her on how to develop healthy friendships and how to set appropriate boundaries. Keep these talks light-hearted and give her opportunities to share her views.
With your loving guidance and support, puberty will no longer be a scary or confusing time for your teen!
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Talking about sexuality may be daunting and awkward, but it is also a privilege you have to bond with your child, and to sow values that can help them make good decisions and develop healthy relationships. Be equipped on how to start the talk with your child at our upcoming Relational Health & Sexual Intelligence webinar.
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