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Puberty

Pimples. Hair “down there.” Feelings of attraction. Moody moments. All the physical and emotional changes of puberty can be pretty overwhelming. Your support can mean a lot to girls if they’re going through tough times.

How can you help? Promote a sense of control by teaching girls how to protect their health. Point out that their bodies are developing in some pretty great ways. Note that everyone goes through puberty. And let girls know what to expect before their bodies start changing.

A mother talking to her daughter.If you feel a little uncomfortable talking with a girl about puberty, you can:

  • Practice what you’re going to say first
  • Look at the girls’ pages of girlshealth.gov together
  • Get help from your pediatrician

Key points about puberty top

Here are some helpful points about puberty:

  • Puberty usually follows certain stages. One of the first signs of puberty for girls usually is developing larger breasts. Next, girls usually grow more hair in places like the pubic area. Menstruating (getting periods) usually happens last, around two years after breast growth starts.
  • For girls, puberty usually starts between the ages of 8 and 13. It can start as early as 6, though. Usually, girls finish going through puberty by around age 14.
  • During puberty, girls get wider hips, thighs, and bottoms. Their bodies will also start to have more fat compared with muscle.
  • It’s natural for girls to wonder about their growing breasts. Here are a few points that can help:
    • Every woman is different in the shape and size of her breasts, so girls shouldn’t worry about how theirs measure up.
    • It is common for a girl’s two breasts to be different sizes, especially at first. Other people can’t see the difference.
    • Vitamins, herbal teas, creams, and special exercises will not change breasts.
    • Wearing a bra can help support and protect breasts. Girls can learn about finding the right fit External link.
  • During puberty, girls’ minds go through changes too. Girls may want to learn more about emotions and relationships.

Fashion Focus


Decide if you want to set age-related rules about makeup and revealing clothes. As girls get more independent, you may need to decide which fashion battles are worth fighting and which ones matter less. Help girls learn about makeup safety, zapping zits, and other ways to look and feel their best while staying strong and healthy.

Puberty and body image top

As girls go through puberty they often start to focus more on how they look. Here are some ways you can help a girl develop a healthy body image:

  • Don’t criticize her body shape — or yours either. Focus on health instead.
  • Remind a girl that the size of her body has nothing to do with her value as a person.
  • Point out that very thin young women in the media often are unhealthy, and pictures often are altered.
  • Look at the girlshealth.gov page on body image together. And watch some inspiring young women talk about real beauty.
  • Don’t tease a girl about body changes. And show her you take her concerns seriously.
  • Read more about helping girls with body image External link.

If you think a girl you care for has a problem with body image or an eating disorder, get help. You can talk to a pediatrician, nurse, school counselor, therapist, or other health professional. Ignoring these issues can lead to serious problems, and treatment can really help.

Girls may worry about how quickly or slowly they’re going through puberty. Tell them that their bodies most likely are just changing at their own rate. If you’re concerned, a doctor can check whether a medical problem is involved. Keep in mind that girls who reach puberty early may be at a higher risk of body image problems and other issues. Offer them support, and get professional help if you see signs of emotional issues like depression.

Helping girls with their periods top

Some girls are very excited about getting their periods, but others feel uncomfortable about it. Focus on the positive. Remind girls that their periods are a sign that their bodies are healthy and can do some amazing things, like make a baby!

Girls can learn to keep track of their periods on a calendar. And girlshealth.gov has a cool tool that describes what happens on each day of the cycle.

Here are a few areas to consider if you’re helping a girl with her period:

  • Timing. You want to explain about periods before a girl gets hers. That could be as young as 8. If a girl hasn’t gotten her period by 15, or within three years of when her breasts started to grow, talk to her doctor.
  • Products. Share information with her about pads, tampons, and other products.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Help girls understand PMS symptoms and treatments.
  • Problems with periods. Encourage a girl to come to you if she thinks she’s having a problem with her period. Learn about period problems that might need a doctor’s help.

 

Content last reviewed January 11, 2011
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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