Helping Your Daughter Navigate Early Puberty

By: Adrienne Erin.

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You didn’t think your baby girl would need a bra so young. She’s only nine, but she does. Puberty is hitting girls younger than ever. Researchers believe the phenomenon may be due to a variety of factors from hormone-mimicking chemicals in the environment, food and consumer products to increased obesity rates.

Over the past 30 years, girls have begun entering puberty a year and a half earlier than was once the norm. The phenomenon is leading to more and more busty eight-year-olds whose childhoods have been sheared off.

Blame it on the Soap?

Cleansers containing chemicals called parabens act like estrogen when absorbed by the body and can bring on early puberty. The FDA also permits the presence of testosterone and progesterone in food (this blew my mind too), so not only are kids surrounded by sex and hormones, they’re eating them too.

Hazards of a Developmental Fast-Forward

Entering puberty early makes it more likely that a girl will battle depression and/or eating disorders, and also elevates the risk of attempted suicide. Girls are also exposed to estrogen for longer periods, which can make them more vulnerable to developing cancer of the breast and uterus.

As your daughter realizes she’s growing breasts she may be embarrassed about it, especially if all her classmates and friends remain flat. Be careful not to confuse your daughter’s appearance with her actual age; it can lead to unrealistic expectations for you and needless additional anxiety for her. She should be free to be the child she is regardless of how she looks.

Support, Support, Support

Restore and shore up your daughter’s self-confidence and emphasize that puberty is a stage every person passes through; it’s just a question of when. If your daughter is athletic and starts menstruating, that’s one inconvenience she may truly hate. Tell your daughter she’s beautiful and help her realize she’s only ahead of her peers, not defective.

Fending off the Horny Toads

As a protective mom or dad, you might find yourself so irate if a man or boy unaware of your daughter’s actual age (or worse, aware and still approaching) hits on your daughter, you’ll want to blast the vile predator with roach spray. It’s understandable, but try to hold back, at least with the boy.

Maintain Awareness of Her Emotional and Physical Landscape

Keep your daughter’s day-to-day environment in mind. It’s almost inevitable she’ll have to defend herself against the taunting and teasing from jealous flat little girls at school who may be behind puberty but ahead of the learning curve on becoming mean girls. It’s a bleak landscape but a possible reality, and she should be prepared for it.

Talking the Talk

Teach your daughter to be proud of her body at every stage. Pubic hair and menstruation generally occur within a year and a half of when a girl starts developing breasts, so you need to prepare her for these changes as well. Expect her to hate every second of the conversation, but it’s one you need to have.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Adrienne Erin is a writer and proud mother of two. She wrote an earlier post for Parenting Pink about teaching your teens about being safe when they’re out alone, and she hopes to continue sharing her experiences!

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