Some parents may be reluctant to talk to their daughters about puberty, but it's important that they do, an expert says.
"Most girls enter puberty without much education on the topic," Dr Akua Afriyie-Gray, an obstetrician at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Illinois. "Parents should be proactive about talking to their daughter about puberty, so that she knows what to expect when her body begins to change."
Parents need to be prepared and have their talk ready when the time comes for them to discuss puberty – the physical changes that precede sexual maturity – with their daughter, Afriyie-Gray said in a Loyola news release.
Your daughter might not say anything to you when she begins experiencing puberty-related changes to her body, so you need to watch out for these changes and let her know what to expect.
Puberty typically starts around age 8 or 9 with hair development under the arms and in the pubic area. Breast development usually occurs next at age 9 or 10, followed by menstruation, which begins on average at age 12. Puberty typically takes three to four years to complete.
Parents should ask their daughter if her friends have started wearing a bra, menstruating or shaving. This takes the focus off your child and may provide a good opening for talking about your daughter's body and the changes she may be experiencing, Afriyie-Gray said.
Explain that puberty is a natural process that all girls experience. Emphasize that there is no need for her to be embarrassed, but be sensitive to what she is ready to discuss, Afriyie-Gray said. Answer any questions she may have and correct any misconceptions she may have about puberty.
Tell your daughter what products are available for menstruation and that she can keep doing her normal activities when she has her period. It's also important to make sure your daughter understands that the start of menstruation means she can become pregnant, Afriyie-Gray said.
Parents who feel uncomfortable talking with their daughter about puberty should make an appointment for her to see a paediatrician or gynaecologist who specializes in treating children and teens.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about puberty.