It only feels like yesterday you were rocking your daughter to sleep, feeding her her first solids, taking pictures of her on her first day at nursery and then waving goodbye to her on her first day at school. Time whizzes by and before you know it she’s nearly as tall as you, she’s stealing your make up and she’s giving you all kinds of attitude. Puberty is only a matter of time, which means you need to start looking out for the clues that show your daughter is going through puberty so that both of you can be prepared.
Puberty is the time when a child’s body undergoes massive change and development on their path to becoming an adult. Along with the physical changes comes hormonal and emotional shifts too, which means there’s a lot going on and it can be a struggle for them to deal with at times. Which is why it is so important that conversations about puberty start early.
Most girls start puberty around the age of 11, but it is considered normal for them to start any when between the ages of 8 and 13. In this article we’re going to explore what signs to look out for when your daughter is going through puberty. Where possible we have listed them in the order of which she will likely experience them, however there is no set timeline and each individual girl will experience puberty slightly differently. Use this as a guide and if you or your daughter have any concerns at all, speak to your GP or paediatrician.
You’ll know your daughter has started puberty when these things happen to her:
One of the first signs your daughter is going through puberty is that her breasts will start to develop. Buds will form underneath her nipples, and the darker area around her nipples will also enlarge. During this growth, these buds as they are called may be slightly painful and tender to the touch and they may feel itchy. One side may also be slightly larger than the other until they even out more. Although it’s important to remind her that even as adults everyone has one breast bigger than the other. This is perfectly normal and nothing to worry or obsess over.
Her breasts will continue to grow until she reaches the end of puberty. And just because one girl starts growing boobs sooner than another girl, doesn’t necessarily mean that she will be the bigger of the two. The rate at which breasts grow is entirely different from one girl to the next.
Talk to your daughter about her changing body and explore the different options of training bras out there. Perhaps go on a girly shopping trip to a store that can offer advice and where she can get measured properly for a bra that fits her and supports her growing breasts in the best way possible. Remember also that whilst some girls may be excited about the prospect of becoming an adult and will fully embrace their changing bodies, other girls may feel anxious and awkward about these changes. Keep the conversations open and honest and let her know she can come and talk to you about anything without judgement.
Armpit, Leg, & Pubic Hair
During the onset of puberty, girls will notice that they are suddenly growing hair in places they didn’t previously have it. In most cases hair will start to grow once their breasts have begun budding, however sometimes hair can appear before breast growth.
Usually hair will grow on the pubic area first, initially growing on the lips of the vulva and over time spreading out to eventually meet the edges of the thighs. Pubic hair starts off soft and downy but will get thicker and curlier as it grows. If your daughter has a head of light blonde hair it is likely her pubic, armpit, and leg hair will be lighter too. Likewise, if she has very dark hair on her head, she will most likely have darker hair in these other areas too, in particular on her legs and under her armpits.
Whilst hair in these areas is perfectly normal for women, social pressures are still such that it is expected for women to remove this hair. However, it is up to your daughter and whether she feels comfortable leaving it to grow naturally. Discuss this with her as well as explaining the different hair removal options and make it clear that this is 100% her personal decision.
Changing hormones may cause excess oils to build up on the skin and this can block pores which increases the chances of skin problems such as acne. Some children may not even get so much as a pimple whereas others may develop severe acne on their face, back and chest. It can be worse if there is a family history of acne, so if you suffered badly during puberty it is likely your child will too. Thankfully there are lots more treatments available for acne these days and in extreme cases you may also want to take her to see your GP who may prescribe steroid based treatments. These can be very harsh though and should only be used following advice.
Encourage your child to wash her face every morning and night using products specifically for use on teenage and sensitive skin. If she does a lot of exercise, she may also want to wash her face afterwards as excess sweat will block her pores and potentially lead to outbreaks.
Your daughter may feel incredibly self-conscious about her acne and you may notice her mood is affected. Whilst beauty is more than skin deep, for teenage girls how they look is their everything. If ever there was a time and need for positive affirmations, this is it!
Puberty is a time of massive physical growth and as girls tend to start puberty sooner than boys there is usually a marked difference in height and development between them at this age. Females continue to grow until about 1 to 2 years after their first period, but their growth can come in fits and starts. Just because they start off taller than their friends doesn’t necessarily mean they will be once they all reach the end of puberty.
Your daughter may experience growing pains and if she has rapid periods of growth she may even develop stretch marks, especially around her hips and thighs. She will begin to build up fat in both of these areas and her shape will become more womanly. Expect to have to regularly buy new clothes and shoes for her throughout puberty, which she of course will be delighted by, your wallet less so.
The physical changes your daughter will go through during puberty are massive, but let’s not forget the emotional and mental side of things too. Girls in particular will become much more emotional throughout puberty and it is during these turbulent teenage years that you are most likely to come to blows with one another. After all, you’ve been there, watched the TV show, got the t-shirt, right? You know the deal, and it’s tough, so don’t take it too much to heart if you hear the words ‘I hate you’ thrown about willy nilly. She doesn’t. She just doesn’t yet know how to deal with these intense hormone fuelled emotions raging through her body.
For some girls it can feel as though they are the only ones on the planet going through these emotions, it can feel as though everyone (mostly her parents) is against her, and that no one understands her. It’s your job to be there, and listen, and make her know that what she is going through is completely normal, and that she has every right to feel the feelings, but that she also most recognise them and come up with some coping mechanisms to deal with them. This could be things like going for a walk to calm down, writing in a journal or keeping a diary, watching a sad film and crying out all those tears, or just simply enjoying her favourite bar of chocolate, because as we all know… chocolate makes everything seem better.
With the vast majority of teenage girls there is nothing too much to worry about. However, if you notice your daughter withdrawing, struggling with sleep, avoiding things like meeting up with friends or other social gatherings, or if her performance at school starts to decline, it may suggest that she is struggling. Speak to the school and your GP about your concerns, as they should be able to put you in touch you with wellbeing support groups, counsellors, and psychologists who can help support both you and your daughter through this tricky time.
Not every teenager will suffer from greasy hair during puberty. It tends to be something that runs in families, so if you had greasy hair as a teenager, it is likely your daughter will too. From a positive point of view, at least you can sympathise with her!
Due to changing hormones during puberty, teenagers tend to produce more oil from their sebaceous glands. This not only makes them more prone to acne and skin related issues but can also make their hair look limp and greasy. Which to teenage girls is obviously a massive deal.
Using a pH balanced shampoo that’s specially formulated for oily hair can help. She should also avoid hair care products that contain chemicals and instead opt for ones containing natural organic ingredients that won’t strip the hair of the good oils her hair needs to look and feel good. You should also make sure she rinses her hair properly, as any product left in it will cause her scalp to dry out, which will encourage more oil production and make the problem worse.
Body odour is a sensitive issue for teenage girls. They can feel incredibly self-conscious about it, so this more than any of the others is a subject you’ll need to tread carefully with. During puberty not only do girls grow hair in places they didn’t have it previously but they also produce more sweat. The reason for this is that their sweat glands become larger and as a consequence produce more sweat. On top of that, the sweat that is produced contains different chemicals to the sweat they would have produced previously, and these chemicals have a stronger smelling, more unpleasant odour.
Check in with your daughter from time to time to make sure she is showering daily and that she has started to use deodorant or antiperspirant. Remember: deodorant will help her smell nice and keep her feeling fresh, whereas antiperspirant will also help to control sweat. Which one she uses will come down to personal preference, as will be deciding whether to use a roll on, stick, or spray. Buy her a couple of different options so that she can try them out for herself before settling on one that works best for her.
And finally, if you hadn’t figured it out already, the absolute proof that your daughter has entered puberty is when she gets her first period. The exact time she’ll get her period is unknown, however there are a few signs to look out for and of course she will have experienced most of the above by the time her period makes an appearance.
For the first 6-24 months her period will likely be irregular and may be of varying flows. After this time, they should settle down into more of a pattern, however if there are any concerns it’s worth taking her to see the GP or nurse. She will learn about puberty, periods, and sex at school, but ideally you want to get in there first so that none of this comes as a shock. After all, the age that girls get their periods these days is younger than it used to be, with more and more girls starting when they are still at primary school. Arm her with the facts, show her the different period products available to her, and most of all normalise everything about it. You little girl is growing up and it’s your responsibility to help her.
Going through puberty is a rough old time, after all there is a lot going on! Arming yourself and your daughter with the knowledge you both need for this confusing and transformative time can help massively. And by knowing what signs to look out for ahead of her starting puberty means you can offer the support she needs as well as strengthen the bond between you both.