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Talking to a girl about puberty

A mother and daughter laying on a bed and talking

Pimples. Hair “down there.” Moody moments. All the physical and emotional changes of puberty can be pretty overwhelming. Your support can mean a lot to the girl in your life.

How can you help? Promote a sense of control by teaching her how to protect her health. Point out that her body is developing in some pretty great ways. Note that everyone goes through puberty. And let her know what to expect before her body starts changing. Click on these topics to learn more:

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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
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Key points about puberty arrow. top

Here are some helpful points about puberty:

  • Puberty usually follows certain stages. Usually one of the first signs of puberty for girls is developing larger breasts. Next, girls often 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 earlier or later, though. If your girl starts puberty before 8 or doesn't start it by 14, talk to her doctor. 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 you answer key questions:
    • 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.
  • During puberty, girls’ minds go through changes too. You can help your girl learn more about emotions and relationships.

Fashion focus

Decide if you want to set age-related rules about makeup and revealing clothes. As a girl gets more independent, you may need to decide which fashion battles are worth fighting and which ones matter less. You can also help girls learn ways to look and feel their best while staying strong and healthy.

Girls may worry about how quickly or slowly they’re going through puberty. You can tell a girl that her body most likely is just changing at its 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.

Puberty and body image arrow. 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.

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.

 

Content last reviewed April 15, 2014
Page last updated June 02, 2014

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