Helping Your Daughter Through Puberty
During puberty, it can be hard to know what’s “normal” and what’s not. In this article we share some of girls’ most common concerns, with expert advice so you can be sure you’re helping your daughter through puberty in the right way – and seeking support when she needs it.
No one should suffer excruciatingly bad period pain.
Regular cramps feel like mild to average prolonged pain in the lower abdomen, lower back, and even upper legs. They are normal. Our Helping Her Manage PMS And Cramps article is full of useful tips you can share with your daughter.
Severe period pain and extreme cramps are different. They’re the ones that regularly keep her home from school or don’t respond to over-the-counter pain relievers.
Between 5-10% of women experience period pain severe enough to disrupt their daily life
Source: Women’s Health Concern 2017
They’re most likely to occur on the ﬁrst day of her period, or just before. They can be caused by an underlying medical problem, or a condition called dysmenorrhea. In these cases, it’s best to consult your doctor.
Hair Sprouting Everywhere!
Body changes during puberty, Remember what it was like for you? You may not recall all the details, but you probably remember wondering, “what’s going on?”
Here’s a refresher for you so you’re ready to help your daughter understand exactly what’s happening with her body.
While most girls expect hair to grow on their arms, legs and pubic area, your daughter might be surprised to ﬁnd it springing up in other places, too! From upper lips to nipples and chins, it’s normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
It’s up to her to decide whether she wants to remove it, but there are no rules. You can help by reassuring her that this hair growth is normal, and by discussing the different ways in which she can remove it, if that’s what she wants to do.
While many of us experience irritability or moodiness during our periods, helping your daughter through puberty means keeping an eye on the severity of her mood swings.
If she shows ﬁve or more of the following symptoms to a worrying degree, she may have a syndrome called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD):
Deep sadness or despair, with possible suicidal thoughts
Lasting irritability and anger issues
Disinterest in daily activities and relationships
Lasting feelings of tension or anxiety
Trouble thinking or focusing
Food cravings or binge eating
Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
Thankfully, PMMD can be managed with treatment so, if you think your daughter may be suffering from it, speak to your PCP to get a diagnosis.
Spotting between periods can be confusing, to say the least. Spotting is light vaginal bleeding that happens between periods. If it’s happening just before or after her usual period, it’s most likely normal. However, if it’s happening often or unpredictably, consider taking her to the doctor.
Weight Gain during Puberty
As much as she might not want it to happen, a certain amount of weight gain is normal. Part of helping your daughter through puberty involves providing reassurance that this is natural, because adult women have more body fat than young girls.
However, if she’s gaining a lot of weight, you’ll need to support her in adopting a healthier lifestyle. Rather than focusing on the scales, encourage her to eat well and stay active to keep herself physically (and mentally) ﬁt.
How long does puberty last?
Overall, the process usually takes between 18 months and two years. Is she developing earlier than her friends? Or maybe a bit later? She may not realize that every girl develops at her own unique pace, so she may worry that she’s the “odd one out.” It’s important to let your daughter know that everyone is different. Assure her that this isn’t the case, and her body’s timing is absolutely normal.
If your daughter hasn’t experienced any of these changes by 14, don’t hesitate to take her to a doctor to make sure everything’s all right.
There’s no ‘right’ time to start puberty, but most girls show the ﬁrst signs of puberty between the ages of 9 and 13. If she’s experiencing early puberty, read the article Supporting Your Daughter Through Early Or Late Puberty for tips and advice.
If you haven’t noticed any pubertal changes by the age of 13, it’s worth taking your daughter for a check-up. Certainly, if she’s 16 and hasn’t had a period, you should take her to the doctor.
Friendships can be a challenging part of puberty. Your daughter may not be particularly sociable, but if she seems generally happy there’s no need to worry. However, if she ﬁnds social situations tough, these tips on how to help your child through puberty can help:
Encourage her to plan an activity – like having a sleepover with a friend or playing soccer in the park.
Give your daughter lots of praise for her efforts to help build her self-esteem.
If she lacks conﬁdence, help her identify other kids who share similar interests, or suggest she join a club where she might meet like-minded people.
Try not to pressure her about friends or constantly discuss the situation.
(your daughter’s body will be growing and developing quickly), she'll need to keep her energy levels up by eating a well-balanced diet.
In the morning, make sure to remind her to drink plenty of water and eat breakfast (you too) for that all-important energy boost at the start of the day.
In the evenings, plan and make healthy meals together. Protein-rich foods (fish, meat, cheese and eggs), complex carbohydrates (whole grains and brown bread), dairy products and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are the perfect foods for a growing girl. Ask her to help you find recipes online and then have cooking nights together. You’re sure to have great food you both love and awesome mom-daughter conversation while you eat it.
Getting regular exercise will make your daughter feel good, improve her overall fitness levels and keep her energy levels high.
Doing something as simple as taking brisk walks together around your neighborhood a few times a week is a great start. Bonus: it’s also the perfect opportunity to chat!
Playing a sport she enjoys at school or recreationally or simply staying active with friends will keep your daughter healthy and give her more opportunities to socialize with other girls in healthy ways.
There’s no need for your daughter to go to the doctor when she gets her ﬁrst period. However, you should schedule an appointment if she:
- Has severe menstrual cramps or any other extreme pelvic pains
- Experiences bleeding that is unusually heavy or lasts more than seven days
- Has vaginal itching, redness, sores, swelling, an unusual odour or discharge
- Is thinking of becoming sexually active and needs to discuss contraception and safe sex habits
- Might be pregnant
- Notices a change in the regularity of her periods after more than a year
- Experiences frequent urination or a burning sensation when she urinates
- Has any injury to her pelvic area
- Has had non-consensual sex or may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease.
The Always Chatbot is here to answer any more questions she may have