It’s a fact–girls are starting to “develop” earlier. That’s what we called it in the late ’70s when my girlfriends and I were separated from the boys in our sixth grade class and shown an instructional film on menstruation. We were all given a packet of related goodies, like pads and tampons, and then sent back to our class doing our best to hide the blue packages from the boys.
An article in the New York Times outlined a medical study on breast development in girls and pegged the age for a girl to show the first signs of puberty as early as 7 to 8 years old. It was a shocker, showing a big shift to the younger side of girlhood. Even though I read the article last August; I was still caught off guard to see its findings playing out in my 4th grade daughter and her friends’ lives.
Honestly, the issue of puberty still escaped my attention. When your little girl is obsessed with puppies, kitties and horses, you’re not thinking tampons, deodorants and bras. Luckily my mom, who surprisingly (read sarcasm) has been through this already, bought my daughter “The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book For Girls” published by the folks at American Girl. My daughter absolutely devoured the book and after she finished it (which only took one night behind the closed door in her bedroom), she asked me to sit down with her and read back parts where she had questions. We did.
This book covers it all; pimples, periods and parents. It’s very graphic and detailed, but not overly dramatic or gratuitous. “The Care and Keeping of You” provides basic and practical information for girls on hygiene, healthy eating and even social issues that I hadn’t thought about mentioning, like bulimia, along with good sound advice. All of this without a whisper about sexuality, which is a subject I want to take the lead as far as teaching my daughter. She’s still far too young and as a testament to the way “The Care and Keeping of You” is written, the subject never came up.
It probably would be best to go through it yourself to see if it fits your style of parenting. It may be TMI for some, in that case, use it as a guideline for issues that might be coming up in your daughter’s prepubescent head and approach the topics yourself.
From my very, very informal survey, some public schools do offer “Mom and Daughter Teas” a function where the subject of puberty is served with tea and sandwiches, but it might be a little late (at the end of 5th grade) for some girls. If you have a younger daughter (say under 6 years old) let this serve as your official heads up from me. Today you’re braiding your daughter’s hair and watching countless episodes of Dora The Explorers, but someday, in the not-too-distance future, you’ll be standing in the middle of Justice trying to help her decided between a two bras, the one with monkeys or the one with pandas.