Puberty is irrefutable proof that our kids are growing up. Many parents find it harder to come to terms with this in their daughters, and there are a lot of ‘facts’ floating around that are completely untrue. Here are five myths about girls and puberty that should be ignored.
1Puberty starts with a girl’s first period
Generally, puberty for a girl starts at any age between eight and 13 years old. This means changes will have been happening for some time before menstruation begins.
You might have missed the earlier signs of puberty in your daughter. She might have stronger body odour, or her breasts may be growing. Because you see her every day, it’s easy not to notice. The arrival of her first period is a sign she’s growing up, but puberty began some time earlier.
2Girls don’t smell as bad as boys during puberty
Boys have a reputation for being smelly as they grow up – and to be fair, it’s well-deserved! That doesn’t mean girls aren’t as bad. Their biology and the changes their bodies are going through create just the same conditions.
Puberty makes kids sweat more. The sebaceous glands produce oils which, under the arms or in the groin, are the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. The bacteria don’t care to which sex it belongs. And then you get the smell…
However, girls are generally perceived as being more aware of personal hygiene than boys at this stage – which could be why this myth began.
3A girl can’t swim while she has her period
False. The same goes for running, PE lessons at school, or any other form of physical activity. In fact, exercise can lift your mood and help reduce stomach cramps. The myth emerged because yes, swimming is both challenging and potentially messy unless she’s using internal protection. Leakage is a worry for most females.
It can take a while to get the hang of a tampon or menstrual cup, but they do make life easier. And while we’re on the subject – using them doesn’t mean a girl loses her virginity. A virgin is someone who has never had sex. It’s not the same thing at all.
4Eating chocolate causes spots
This one applies equally to boys and girls, but it seems pertinent to mention it. Girls are often more self-conscious about their appearance at an earlier age.
Spots happen when the skin’s pores are blocked with sebum, a substance produced by our glands. During puberty, our hormones make more of this oil – which makes kids going through puberty and adolescence more prone to spots.
That doesn’t mean our kids can eat sweets and junk food as much as they like, because diet does play a part in how our bodies function. But enjoying a bar of chocolate won’t cause a major outbreak of acne (and for a hormonal daughter, that can be a real comfort).
5Mums should be the ones to have ‘the talk’ with daughters
As our kids grow up, we know we need to talk to them about lots of potentially embarrassing subjects. What’s going on with their bodies. Sex. Emotions. Traditionally, it’s expected that Mum will be the one to do this with their daughters. But by making it a dad-free zone, it’s reinforcing the belief that what’s happening is somehow taboo or shameful.
No, it might not be the most natural subject for a dad to discuss with his daughter. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Make sure she knows she can ask questions freely of either parent. Answer honestly and without using any cutesy euphemisms for body parts. And if you don’t know, it’s fine to say so and then suggest she talks to her mother. Oh, don’t ask her about her periods in front of her friends, either. She’ll never forgive you.