What girls need to know about puberty

Changing bodies ... prepare young girls for puberty.
Changing bodies ... prepare young girls for puberty. Photo: Stocksy

Do you have a daughter between the ages 8-13 in the house? According to Heath Direct Australia, she could be on her way or already going through puberty.

Puberty is natural and we all go through it but there are ways to make the transition from child to adolescent easier for your girl. Hopefully, a lot easier than it was for me.

Imagine my horror when, at 12 years old, I open a Christmas gift that included a boxed training bra in it! Yup, my entire family sat in a circle watching and waiting to see my reaction. If they were hoping for red-faced embarrassment, they got it.

And speaking of getting "it", my period started at school and I had no idea what was going on. I was 12 (a big year for me) and had incredibly painful cramps one day. Thank goodness there was no blood yet. When I complained to my mother about the pain, she clued in to what was happening. In hushed tones and micro meetings in the hallway, she told me that I would need to wear pads each month. What a nightmare.

Times may have changed since I was 12, but bodies still go through the same changes. Here are the crucial things every girl should know about puberty (preferably before it happens).

Breasts

The development of breasts indicate the start of puberty. This usually starts between 10-11 years old but can happen as early as eight. Crop-top style bras are popular and could act as a good starter bra but of course, it will depend on the size and growth speed of your child. More support may be needed, especially if she plays a lot of sport. Take your girl shopping and let her pick out her own colours. 

Vaginal Discharge

Bras can be a fun thing but discussing bodily fluids can be awkward and embarrassing, for parent and child. The most important thing is to assure her it's normal. Vaginal discharge is the uterus's way of cleaning itself. If the excess secretions are heavy or bothersome, suggest she wear a panty-liner. Choose one without a plastic backing to allow airflow. If the discharge is thick, smelly and accompanied by itching, she could have a yeast infection. Let her know this is okay and many women experience it. Remedies can be purchased at the chemist.

Menstruation

Puberty and getting your period is often lumped into one thought. Sure, menstruation is a big sign that a girl is becoming a women; she's now ready to conceive. Each month, the uterus lines itself with blood, ready to fertilise an egg. If the egg is not fertilised, the uterus releases the blood and egg and this is a "period". Let your daughter know that she may have severe pain up to 12 hours before she starts to bleed. Pack her a small carry case of pads and a change of underwear to keep in her school bag. The book, Cycling to Grandma's House by Jac-Torres-Gomez is a great way to open the discussion about menstruation with prepubescent girls.

Body Hair

With the increase of hormones comes more hair. Pubic hair will start off as fine, straight lines before getting thicker, courser and curlier. The same will happen under the arms and leg hair will become darker. I was never schooled about shaving. I had older sisters and I saw them shave but I was on my own to learn when and how to do it (and I still have a scar to prove it). Today, we have the added fashion statement that hair is unacceptable. It's not just about razors anymore. Add in waxing, IPL, sugar and bleaching creams and you've got a full-on hair removal discussion on your hands. My advice is not about what hair to remove or when, only about having the discussion so your daughter doesn't flail her way through it.

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Body Odour

Good personal hygiene is the key to keeping body odour at bay. Sweat does not have a smell but the bacteria that lives on our skin does. The start of puberty is a good time to start wearing daily deodorant and increasing washing habits. It may be a good idea to pack your child an extra school shirt and socks  to avoid embarrassing teasing if BO strikes. Nobody should have to endure being teased and called "odour arms" by their peers.

Acne

While BO and body hair can be hidden, acne and pimples most often cannot. New hormones are responsible for the changes in oil-producing glands that may become over-active and create pimples. It's not dirt that create pimples, just blocked glands. Some foods may cause pimples to flare up so cut back on them for relief. Teach your child how to gently wash their face and affected areas twice a day and encourage them to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Drinking lots of filtered water can work wonders too.

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