Guide to Girls' New Puberty
Why are girls developing earlier than ever before? Studies show that how active she is, how much she sleeps and how much tv she watches can speed up or slow down a girl’s puberty. We can take simple actions to help delay it or slow it down. These same things will help her be healthier all her life!
This guide has proven information to help parents and girls. The 5 sections cover things we know affect a girl's hormones—the signals that tell her body to develop—and her health. You'll find videos, tips and quizzes where you (and she!) can learn more.
Healthy & Happy
Some girls are tall, some are curvy; no body type is right or wrong. This guide doesn't focus on weight. The important thing is to be as fit and healthy as we can in our bodies and where we live!
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Move More & More Often
Being active early in life may help prevent early puberty or slow puberty already in progress. It also helps lower the risk of heart disease and even breast cancer later in life!
We all need physical activity to be healthy. Kids need to build strong hearts, muscles and bones. Many types of exercise also help with balance and flexibility. Kids need 60 minutes of activity every day. It may sound like a lot, but small amounts add up.
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Regular physical exercise is good for a girl's body, mind, and spirit. When girls keep moving, they’re more likely to:
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It can be tough to find the time and place for being active. But remember, it doesn't have to take a long time or cost money; your daughter can walk, hula hoop, dance, bike, jump rope, lift cans of food or jugs, and do push-ups. For classes, check out videos (on-line or at the library), community centers or local parks & recreation.
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An easy way to build activity into your kid's day is walking or biking to school. Is it possible? Safe? PE at school is also good.
Be a role model: get out with your daughter and play with her, go for bike rides or hikes on the weekends. This is also a chance to talk.
The average kid spends more time watching/streaming tv or playing on computers, than running and playing. Help your daughter avoid too much sitting. Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit tv, video games and surfing the web to no more than 2 hours a day.
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BREAK IT UP!
When your daughter is on a screen, set a timer and have her move for at least 5 minutes every hour. Try a video or:
Many girls at this age start to drop out of organized sports because they think they are not athletic. What about your daughter: Does she like to compete? Prefer to be part of a group? The important thing is to have fun and be fit. Variety can be good: she may avoid injury and boredom.
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If your child has asthma or a disability, talk with her doctor, nurse or an expert about the best activities for her abilities.
Our bodies need food to keep going, but what we eat is important. Processed foods and sugar seem to speed up puberty. To be their healthiest, girls need the right kinds and amounts of fuel for their growing bodies.
Easy tips for eating healthy
There's no great secret to healthy eating. Help build good habits at home by:
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Make healthy snacks, like fresh fruits and vegetables or nuts, the easy choice: keep them in a bowl on the kitchen counter or in the front of the refrigerator.
Talk to your daughter about how good food looks and tastes. Healthy foods can be tasty and they don’t have to be expensive.
Keep it clean
Wash produce (fruits and vegetables) to remove dirt and pesticides. Choose produce that has fewer pesticides and consider buying organic if you need items that have more.
Look for ways to make favorite dishes healthier. Check out some tricks to make your family's favorite dish or recipe healthier and just as tasty.
Did you know?
Our bodies are almost 60% water--that's more than half! Thirst is your body telling you to drink more water. In most places bottled water is no better than tap water, so filter if you need to, but keep your family drinking lots of water. Especially on hot days.
Every girl has her own build and as she grows, she needs to gain weight. You can help your daughter understand that her body size and shape are okay.
A trick to choosing healthy food is to read the label. Sugar hides in all kinds of food, like salad dressing, bread and spaghetti sauce. If your kids shop with you, have them help look for the best choices.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
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Sleep is important for everyone, especially kids. At night, while they sleep, hormones are released that they need to develop. Enough sleep helps keep the body and immune system strong in puberty and in the future.
It’s not just about feeling grumpy or dozing off in school, lack of sleep hurts school work and lowers the metabolism. It also makes us hungry and more likely to eat junk food!
Did you know?
Sleep is the #1 way to reduce belly fat (#2 is lower stress, #3 is healthy eating & exercise).
Avoid TV, computers and phones at least hour before bed. Light, especially blue light, wakes up the brain and changes hormones.
Is her bedroom ready for sleep?
Keep it cool, quiet, and dark. You can even try eye shades or blackout curtains, then let in sunlight in the morning to help wake up. Avoid watching TV or playing with electronics in bed.
A night-time routine can help her make and stick to healthy sleeping habits. Set a regular bedtime and stick to quiet, calm activities before bed. A bath, brushing teeth and reading together are good choices.
Limit sleep interruptions from late night trips to the bathroom and bad dreams by avoiding drinks and meals close to bedtime.
Talk it out!
During puberty, emotions are stronger. Studies show that pre-teen and teen brains react differently than adults. Take time to calmly talk things through.
Stress can trigger hormones and speed up her development. And as her body changes, that can cause stress, too. Luckily, there are ways that we can help her control how she responds to the changes and stress.
Limit media exposure. Help her self-image by talking about how girls & women look on tv, internet and magazines.
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What are kids saying?
Most girls care what others think and say. If she has a cell phone, watch for abuse or bullying. Try to monitor her use of the internet. Learn what bullying is and how to prevent or stop it.
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Girls that develop early can be uncomfortable with their bodies, feel different and get attention they don't want or like. Find her books, enlist her doctor/nurse and talk to her about peer pressure. Focus on what she can understand--remember her body and brain may not be at the same stage.
Instead of telling her she is pretty, focus on what she does and praise her efforts whether she gets an ‘A’ or wins or not. Use words like strong and healthy; ‘You were such a good friend today,’ ‘You were brave to tell me how mad you were,’ ‘I like how you stand up for yourself,’ "I’m proud of how hard you studied for that test."
Choose fresh and frozen foods
Limit canned, processed and prepared foods. Cook more from scratch.
Kids' hormones are more active as they develop. Things around them have chemicals that get into their bodies and act like some of those hormones. Studies show that chemicals can speed up, slow down or change their development. And most have never been tested to see if they are safe or not! Here are some ideas for avoiding some chemicals we know cause problems.
Do you have a yard or garden?
Do you have bugs in your home, yard or garden? Get rid of them safely.
Stay or get smoke-free
Smoking in homes and cars makes it harder for kids (and you!) to breathe. You can lower risk of asthma, ear problems and infections by making your home and vehicles smoke-free. There is free help to quit smoking.
Some produce has fewer pesticides and some lotions are healthier. Find out which are the best (lowest) scoring foods and beauty products on this smartphone app!
Use sunscreens safely: avoid chemical-based sunscreens and vitamin A. Or save money: cover up or stay in the shade.
Many products have scents or fragrance. While they may smell good, these hidden chemicals are absorbed into the blood though our skin and our lungs. They can cause allergies, weight gain and affect your child's development. Avoid perfumes, air fresheners, dryer sheets and scented detergents.
Don't carry a cell phone in your bra.
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This guide was produced with support from the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.
Based on the book The New Puberty: How to Navigate Early Development in Today’s Girls by Louise Greenspan, MD and Julianna Deardorff, PhD.
Conceived of and produced by Catherine Thomsen with support from Rose Barlow and consultant Kelly Wagman.
Special thanks to CYGNET Study Youth Advisory Board members: Ke’Ara S, Maya S-L, Rachael C, Rachel S-L, Shelby A and Susan K, and to mom, Janie H.
© 2021 ZERO BREAST CANCER