Explaining puberty to your daughter

Puberty hormones

Your daughter is going to have a lot of questions as she goes through puberty – mainly of the 'am I normal?' variety. And since you've already been through puberty yourself, explaining the process to your daughter should be simple. So why does it feel about as straightforward as Sudoku?
Your daughter needs you to help her grow up safely and to build self-confidence but, at times, you might need some help in knowing what to say to her. Not to worry, puberty tips are at hand. Here's a heads-up on the questions your daughter might ask as she – and you – chart the choppy waters of adolescence.
Below you'll find useful topics and practical information for talking to your daughter about growing up. You can use it as a loose 'script' or just as a conversation starter.

Mum, what exactly is puberty?

Puberty is a name for the time when you start to change from a child to an adult, from a girl into a woman. You've changed a lot since you were born, even more since you started school, and you'll change more as your body begins to biologically mature.
It's important to know that puberty is normal – it happens to everyone. You should also know that, though you'll go through a lot of changes, you will still be you – with some important differences. The obvious change during puberty is the development of sexual characteristics, like breasts, the growth of pubic hair and getting your period. When puberty is complete, a girl is physically able to have a baby.
Puberty comes with both physical and emotional changes, but they don't always happen together. It's possible that you could begin to mature emotionally before any physical changes happen. In other words, you may feel older but still look like a child. Equally, you may still feel very young but look grown-up. Adolescence can be a frustrating time because you're no longer a child, but you're not yet an adult. But if you’re more aware of what's happening, you’ll find it easier to deal with.

Puberty – the scientific explanation

Basically puberty is all about hormones. Hormones are substances produced by your body that control your body’s functions. As you approach puberty, a part of your brain called the pituitary gland begins releasing more and more specific hormones. These hormones stimulate your ovaries to produce oestrogen and another part of your body to produce other hormones called androgens. These hormones cause many of the physical changes that take place during puberty.
You will probably notice changes in your breasts first. You’ll also soon see hair growing under your arms and in the pubic area. Your body odour may change and you may get acne. You will grow taller, gain weight, and your hips will get wider too. You may notice that long bones such as your arms and legs are lengthening, while your overall body size (as well as internal organs such as the heart, lungs and uterus) increase in size in response to these hormones too.

Mum , when does puberty happen?

Puberty can start anywhere between the ages of eight and 14. Generally, you can expect your first period about two years after the first signs of your breasts developing.
Here are a few clues to help you figure out when you’re more likely to get your first period:

  • About two years after your breasts begin to develop
  • Within a year or so after you begin developing pubic hair
  • After you start to notice some vaginal discharge (whitish or clear fluid that comes from your vagina)

 

If you develop earlier than most of your friends, you may feel 'weird' or self-conscious. That's normal. But if you develop later than most you can also feel strange, as if you've been left out of the club. Remember, you’ll develop at your own pace and in your own time.

For more insight

Beinggirl is a great place for your daughter to get even more information about puberty and growing up. Take a look at the site and consider recommending it to your daughter. It’s got a lot of information, as well as a place to ask more questions.
Also, be on the look-out for signs that your daughter might be looking for ways to talk with you about puberty and growing up. She might leave a note for you, or casually ask about the right products to use, or even just ask.

Sources

  • ACOG patient brochure 41: growing up