Q: My daughter is only 8 years old, but I think she’s showing signs of starting puberty. (She’s getting a little stinky and might need a bra soon!) Isn’t this young? Should I be worried?
A: While 8 years old does seem very young to be starting puberty, it is not abnormal. Medically, there is nothing to worry about. Emotionally, this can be another story. Many kids this age, and parents for that matter, aren’t ready to have “the talk” and certainly don’t feel ready to tackle the topic of periods.
The first sign of puberty in girls is developing breast buds which is considered normal at ages 8 and older. If you think your daughter is developing breast buds before the age of 8, then you should call your doctor for an evaluation. Starting a period usually happens about two years after breast buds appear. Body odor, underarm and pubic hair, and acne can develop anytime between the ages of 6 and 9, but are worth getting checked out if it’s before the age of 8, especially if they are progressing rapidly.
Emotionally, 8-year-olds are starting to develop self-awareness and can be easily embarrassed if they perceive they don’t fit in. Thus, being the first in the class to wear a bra or have a period can be emotionally distressing. The best way to approach this is to normalize her experience, validate her feelings and share information. If possible, it may help for Mom to share what age she went through puberty, especially if it was on the younger side. Reading books together about puberty and body changes (I like The Care and Keeping of You by Valorie Schaefer and It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris) is a great way to share information and facilitate conversation. Let her know she can ask questions anytime to keep the conversation going, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician if you need additional support. We are here for you!