Is That a Hair?

It’s the day we’re all dreading…when out little girls become not so little anymore. From growing hairs under their arms, to developing “bumps” on their chest, to – dare I say it – menstruation; it’s every girl’s biggest confusion and every parents worst nightmare. Although we can’t prevent these changes from happening, we can prepare ourselves – and our daughters – for that fateful day.

Hair Development.

This is usually one of the first signs of puberty. Hair begins to grow under the arms, on the legs, and in the private area. Talk with your daughter about these changes.

  • Use a practical approach. Explain to her that as she gets older, her body will change. Be prepared to hear the question why a lot. Depending on your comfort level, answer these difficult questions in ways you know your daughter will understand. Also, puberty begins at different ages for every girl, so you will approach an 8 year old differently than an 11 year old. Your talk should suit your child’s age while keeping the information basic.
  • Should she shave? It all depends on your comfort level – and hers. Simply explain to her that shaving will not permanently get rid of the unwanted hair and that it will grow back. It’s a good idea to hold off of shaving until she’s at least a tween (11-12), but it is a personal decision that should be made between the parent and child. If she is ready to shave, try these guidelines:
  • Wet the area with warm water. This softens the hair, making it easier to remove.
  • Apply shaving cream.
  • Body Shaving Basics:
    • Legs. Shave against the direction of hair growth unless you are prone to ingrown hairs. In this case, shave with the direction of hair growth.
    • Underarms. Since hair grows in all directions it’s best to shave up and down.
    • Genital area. Shaving the genital area can be tricky with young girls. They usually don’t have much pubic hair, and inexperience can lead to razor burn or cuts. Let her decide what she’s comfortable with, or if she’s comfortable doing it at all.
  • Lather Up. Always apply shaving cream to the area to avoid nicks, cuts, and irritation.
  • Opt for a good razor. Cheap, disposable razors do a horrible job and may cause irritation.
  • Rinse the blade. Rinse every 2-3 strokes to keep it clean and clear of hair. A clogged blade will not do a good job.
  • Always monitor your daughter. This does not mean you have to be in the same room with her, but be on hand if she has any questions or an accident.

Breast Development.

Another “aargh” moment for moms, daughters, and yes…even dads! At this stage boys will begin to notice your not-so-little girl’s chest. Most girls under the age of ten feel self conscious when they develop early. Tweens, on the other hand, are typically more accepting of growth because they see their friends are also blossoming.

Bra Sizing.

Bra sizing is simple to calculate. All you need is a tape measurer and a calculator (unless you’re good at doing math in your head).

  • Finding Her Band Size. Measure the chest area under the breast, being sure not to get any breast tissue in the way. This is your band size. If it’s an odd number, go up by 1.
  • Finding Her Cup Size. Measure around the breast area directly across the nipple. Take this number and subtract it by the first number (before rounding). The difference is your cup size. If the difference is ¼ inch it’s an AAA, ¼  to ½ inch is AA, ½ to 1 inch is A, 1 inch to 2 ½ inches is B.

Menstruation.

Now you may scream! The last stage of becoming a woman…is getting the monthly visit from Aunt Flo. This can come months to years after the first stage of development. Up until now, you may have received questions from your daughter about how her body is changing, what menstruation will feel like, and why it happens? If it hasn’t happened yet, the “birds and the bees” talk is definitely in order.

It’s important to teach your daughter the proper way to use pads. Although tampons are another alternative, it’s best to wait until she’s older and has adjusted to her cycle before introducing this product. Once she feels comfortable with menstruation, she can decide if tampons are right for her.

Finally, prepare to weather the storm. Research has shown that PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) can have strong effects on a person’s mental and physical state. So you can expect major mood swings, crying, eating, and changes in behavior.

Mapping Your Cycle.

The best way to help your daughter determine when her cycle will begin and end each month is to write everything down. The first couple of periods may be irregular as her body adjusts to menstruation. It can take 3-6 months to determine a pattern. Suggest these cycle-tracking tips:

  • On the very first day of your period, grab a calendar. A personal one is best, so you’re not announcing to your entire household that you’re “going though some things.”
  • Mark the first and last day of your period. The last day will be when you have two pads that are not “messy”. Do this for the next few months, marking the first and last days of your menstruation.
  • Around the 6th month you should be able to tell how often your cycle begins. Not every cycle is based on the 28 day rule. Cycles can range anywhere from 24-32 days. Your cycle should never be off by more than two days. If so, then you should check with your physician to ensure that everything is okay.

“The Talk.”

The onset of puberty gives you a chance to talk about good touches vs. bad touches with your daughter. Let her know that she will get noticed by boys, but that doesn’t give them (or anyone else for that matter) the right to touch her in places that make her uncomfortable. Assure her that she doesn’t need to feel embarrassed about what’s going on with her body and that these changes are normal. During this time, you may also want to consider talking about sex. It’s better to lay it all on the line now then to wait and be overwhelmed with questions later.

Going through these changes is often difficult for girls. They need all the love and support they can get. As much as we all want to hold onto our little princesses, one day they will inevitably become young women. Guiding our daughters and giving them important information will make the change much easier for them. As for us…we’ll still need a good stiff drink!