IT’S easy to assume that life is a breeze for youngsters — but don’t forget how confusing and intense things can feel when you hit puberty.
There’s already a lot going on for girls around the ages of 10-14 —school politics, first crushes, making the mammoth step from junior to ‘big’ school — throw hormones into the mix, and all the physical and emotional changes they bring, and things can get challenging.
Sophie Elkan, co-author of The Girls’ Guide To Growing Up Great, knows the score — as well as having gone through it herself, of course, her daughter is experiencing it now.
“The simple truth is, when you start puberty you’ll go through it your way, but it’s a pretty similar deal for everyone,” says Elkan.
“There will be changes taking place that you can see, and some that you can’t. On top of the periods, hair, spots — all the stuff you’ve probably heard about —there’ll be a lot going on in your brain too, and that can sometimes feel a bit harder to deal with.”
Here, Elkin shares 12 tips to help make dealing with puberty a little easier for girls...
Even though you may be changing in your own way, or having your own thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears about what’s happening, know you’re not going through this alone.
Your body will start changing only when it’s ready. You can’t speed it up or slow it down.
We’re all different shapes and sizes — some girls are naturally curvier all over, some less so. Whatever your body type, take care of it, as it needs to last your whole life. Eat well, don’t pick spots, keep healthy.
The most attractive people share one feature — confidence. Put a smile on your face and look people in the eye. There’s always someone in any group that everyone raves about and you can’t work out why. Chances are she’s confident, and that’s what makes her look good.
Just because you rarely see women with body or facial hair, it doesn’t mean hair isn’t growing. From upper lips and armpits to nipples and chins, it’s normal and nothing to be ashamed of. If you decide to remove it that’s your choice, but there are no rules.
Although we talk about bleeding, it isn’t actually blood that comes out.
Your uterus creates a lining each month in case space is needed for an egg to grow (pregnancy). If it’s not needed, that lining breaks down into a fluid which is released during your period. That’s why it’s browner than blood from a cut.
If you have any health concerns, don’t feel embarrassed about going to the doctor. You can always ask to see a woman doctor, but whomever you see will have full medical training, and to them they’re all just bits of a body, even if some are usually hidden in bras or pants.
If you’re being asked to keep a secret about your body, this should set off alarm bells. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable because of comments they’re making, or if they’re trying to touch you and you don’t want them to, tell them to stop. If they don’t, tell a trusted adult. You don’t need to put up with it.
If you have a few friends you enjoy spending time with, then don’t stress about not having a BFF. Equally, not everyone wants the best friend they have. If you have interests your friend doesn’t share, find a nice but firm way of telling them you want to try something new. If the friendship is sound, they’ll come around.
If someone’s being mean to you or bullying you, speak out —no matter whether it’s in real life or online. If you don’t say anything, you’re letting them have all the power and you need to get that back. The best way of doing that is not to protect them by keeping silent. Tell a friend for some support, or if you’re worried or scared of being hurt, tell a trusted adult so they can help.
Enjoy the online world as an amazing place of possibility and opportunity, but remember anything you post will last forever. Everything (even disappearing stories or Snaps) can be screen-shotted. A mean comment about a classmate can be shared around the school, as can a private picture you’d rather your parents didn’t see. Take pleasure in real life and actual experiences as you have them, rather than stress about taking the perfect picture or ‘creating memories’. Don’t confuse ‘likes’ or ‘favourites’ with real popularity or genuine friendship.
Chances are, your parents are having to adapt to the fact you’re no longer a little girl. If you want them to treat you with respect, remember it goes both ways. You’ll have days you’ll want to wail at them for being unfair, but if you’re able to show you listen to their concerns and value what they do for you, they’re much more likely to recognise and respect you.
The Girls’ Guide To Growing Up Great by Sophie Elkan, Laura Chaisty and Dr Maddy Podichetty, is published by Green Tree.