Growth and Development
Talking to Your Daughter About Puberty
It seems like just yesterday you were reading "Goodnight Moon" to your little girl, and now — right before your very eyes — she's growing into a woman. As she develops, your daughter is bound to have questions about the physical and emotional changes of puberty.
As a parent, it's your job to listen to her concerns and keep the lines of communication open. Here are some tips on how to make that happen:
- Answer questions openly and honestly. Let your daughter know that you're available any time to talk, but also schedule time to talk (don't always wait for her to initiate the discussion). If she has questions or concerns that you can't answer, talking with her doctor may help provide reassurance.
- If you haven't already, start the talk early. By the time a girl is 8 years old, she should know what bodily changes are associated with puberty. That may seem young, but consider this: some early bloomers are already wearing training bras at that age. As a conversation starter, you might tell your daughter about what puberty was like for you when you were growing up.
- Talk about menstruation before she gets her period. Girls who are unaware of their impending period can be frightened by the sight and location of blood. Most girls get their first period when they're 12 or 13 years old; others get it as early as age 9 or as late as age 16.
- Make it practical. Most girls are interested in practical matters, like how to find a bra that fits and what to do if they get their first period at school. Your daughter will appreciate concrete assistance, such as taking a measurement for a bra or getting some pads that she can stash in her backpack or locker, just in case.
- Offer reassurance. Girls often express insecurity about their appearance as they go through puberty. Some develop breasts at a younger age or get their period early, while others may not start until they're a little older. Assure your daughter that there's a huge amount of variation in the timing of these milestones. Everyone goes through them, but not always at the same pace.
If you're not entirely comfortable having a conversation about puberty, practice what you want to say first or ask your doctor for advice.
Remember, it's important to talk about puberty — and the feelings associated with it — as openly as possible so that your daughter will be prepared for the changes ahead.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2011