Resources for girls going through puberty?

Mona writes:

"So . . . . my oldest is 9.  Outwardly showing signs of puberty – breast
buds, underarm hair, some increased facial oil and has had one or two
blemishes.  She is a "tomboy" and has been pretty even-keeled, at least
for the past six years or so.  The wheels have gone off the bus. 
Crying, whining, yelling, you name it.  It's like a classic roller
coaster.  I have talked with her about the changes her body is going
through, told her we all went through it and it does get better, and
also cracked down on the whining/crying/etc.  But really am I doing the
right thing?  What should/can I do?  I am also trying to encourage her
to get plenty of exercise, which is something that makes her happy and
also helps her sleep better at night, but sometimes she still can't
sleep and the exercise isn't possible.  Any thoughts or books or words
of wisdom?  Almost all of the parenting books relate to specific younger
ages or are more general like the Faber books.  I want a roadmap to

Ouch. I remember being a girl on the inside of puberty, and it was horrible. This is making me want to call my mom and thank her for putting up with me then.

I also remember reading the Judy Blume books at that age and feeling like someone understood me. So maybe that whole genre of puberty lit would be helpful for your daughter to read.

For resources for you to help talking about it with her, I don't know. I haven't look for anything for talking to my son and am just taking the conversations as they come, precisely because everything seems to be geared toward younger kids OR is about talking about sex and reproduction and we've been talking about that for eight years now so it's not a hot topic anymore.

Who can help, with resources for talking about puberty–not sex and reproduction–with upper elementary age kids?

45 thoughts on “Resources for girls going through puberty?”

  1. Those American Girl books (The Care and Keeping of You — they just split it into two volumes) are probably the best-known resources for that age. They’re actually reasonably acceptable on content (I thought they were going to be beyond girly-girly, which wouldn’t have worked with one of my girls AT ALL). Of course, that’s assuming you can get them past the brand name.I don’t know what to tell you about the crying and the whining. It feels SO MUCH like the two/three-year old stage all over again, but this time, when I try to give words to the meltdown, the child LOSES IT. So there’s a lot of sending people to their rooms, and hoping they don’t realize I can’t actually FORCE them to leave (they are, after all, almost as tall as I am). I’ve more or less decided that, since I can only interrupt the tantrums, not entirely prevent them, I need to focus on at least balancing the terrible:great time ratio by increasing positive time together. (Wait, did that come out right?) In other words, my daughters are not going to have some magical epiphany and not go through adolescent “I hate you and everything you stand for!” moments, so my job is to put boundaries on that behavior while also seizing every possible moment for positive time together, just to balance things out.
    Moxie, I have two girls and a boy, all age 12, and as much as I hate to fall into the boy-girl trap, OMG. I suspect it’s just that boys are so much later to the puberty party, and then the mother-daughter dynamics kick in, too, but OMG. Pubescent girls are SOMETHING ELSE. I was a girl myself and I had NO IDEA.

  2. The thing is, two years into the whole girls/puberty thing, it’s SO unpredictable. I get hugs AND stomping-away-angry fits pretty much every day, often within a single half hour. I go through the checklist — food? sleep? exercise? — and then I’m left with (a) all the unrelieved stress from the infinite dramas of school and (b) hormones. There are just limits to what we can do. It’s out of our control in a whole new, scary way.Plus, just for kicks? Peri-menopause for me. So I am super-rational and even-keeled at every time of the month myself, of course. FUN TIMES.

  3. Second the AG books. The Care and Keeping is good for bodily/hygiene issues, but they also have some good ones on social issues, feelings, friendships, and so on. AG puts them out, but they have zero of the doll stuff featured. It’s just watercolor-looking pictures of kids.

  4. Their moods can change on a dime, and my only suggestion is to talk to them about that as a sign of growth and puberty, and not be angry with them for it. It’s hard for sure. If you really press a girl during one of these fits and ask her why she is behaving like that, she will whimper that she just doesn’t KNOW. Remember yourself going through the baby blues…tears that come from nowhere, and a sense that nothing is okay. Same thing, and if somebody asked you why you were doing it, you would be powerless to answer too.

  5. Huh. I had no idea there were American Girl books that weren’t just stories about the American Girls!Jody, I think a lot of it is about boys being late to the party, too.

  6. We also have puberty going mano a mano with menopause in this house, but I find myself feeling somehow more able to deal with her emotions because mine have wound down already. What’s hard for me is watching her become more lovely all the time while I feel a decline physically. You can rah-rah the beauty of aging all you want, but it’s hard when you’re standing next to a fountain of youth.

  7. Exercise is great, so is trying to avoid salt and sugar. They both lead to bloat with changing hormones, and seem to escalate things.My bottom line feeling is, they have to go through this time, but we don’t have to enjoy every minute of it. I have found that distraction helps, and we have been looking for things my daughter would like to learn about and get more involved in. She is doing a sewing service project in Girl Scouts, and she is learning weaving and hand spinning with a drop spindle. It is really good for her to see her skills grow and to have uninterrupted time to get creative with her small loom. She is also learning the flute. So, I’m hopeful that there is a way to help her rise above some of this stuff and be her own self.

  8. Finally, this is no time for them to skimp on time with their fathers. Not only is it a welcome break from the mother-daughter tango, it just seems to relax the girls somehow. Dads are very different from moms, and at puberty that’s a great thing.

  9. Thirding the “Care and Keeping of You” books. AG has a whole series that have nothing to do with the dolls, but are “growing up” kinds of topics — friendship, bullying, school, and yup, puberty. My 10-year-old is completely anti-girly stuff but has gotten a lot out of that book and refers to it constantly.We have the mood swings and crying and tantrums over here, and distraction seems to be almost the only thing that works. I’ve also talked to her about learning to realize when she feels a mood coming on and that it’s ok to take herself off to her room if she wants to cry. I try not to get upset or angry in the moment — it is NOT easy! — but I have let her know (when things are calmer) that it’s perfectly normal to have these feelings but not ok to take it out on everyone in the house. It’s given her some control over when she removes herself, rather then me sending her to time out (“LIKE A BABY OH MY GAWD MOM”)and I think that helps a little.

  10. It sounds like you are doing well. You are giving support and setting boundaries. Both are important. It is definitely a time to pick your battles well. Have outings as a family and do things as a family, no matter how lame they say those things are. I think that feeling connnected to something is so important at this age. When hormones rage and you don’t even understand your own behavior it is good to know that you have somewhere you belong. It also is good to make sure that friends are appropriate as they quickly become more influentual than you are. And I also feel that dad should do some of the battling/caring for. Maybe more so now than ever before a father figure will teach them so many things, and instill so many things in them for later on. Remember even when it feels like we aren’t getting through, we all remember mom’s voice nagging at us when we are doing something that we know isn’t right

  11. I was also going to recommend The Care and Keeping of You. I think the second volume might be where she’s at, and it’s clear without being overwhelming or patronizing.

  12. Watching this looming… x2, because they’re twins. (sympathy to the triplets issue up top, ouch!)My little sister’s daughter is older than mine, and she said that the best way to think of her daughters moods was ‘two weeks of first-trimester-of-pregnancy followed by two weeks of PPD, ongoing’. It made total sense to me, progesterone and estrogen cycling, and the physical body not yet able to process all the surges/changes. Some of the same things that helped for those times seems to have worked for her daughter, too – exercise, sunlight, Omega-3’s, and tons of patience.
    I’ve heard GREAT things about Care and Keeping of Me. Also about It’s Perfectly Normal (both boy and girl versions).
    Witness seems to also be a bigger thing than ‘help’ – just having someone know that you’re upset, and listen, but not ANSWER.
    Unfortunately, I’m so far still sucky with witness. I usually say something out loud at some point and piss off my Witness-needing kid. :headdesk: She’s going to be interesting in puberty, I think.

  13. … of You (oy, really, I know what the book is called!)Also, regardless of whether you are associated with either UCC or UU churches, check into the OWL program (Our Whole Lives) – it’s group puberty and sexuality classes as an integrated part of life. My 11 year old is in the younger middle-school class now, and the 15 year old did the older middle-school class last year. Seems to have been very useful for them (though they don’t talk about it with me, much!). The curriculum can be used by any organization, not just churches (and has no theology, but DOES have a healthy-sexuality-is-part-of-life viewpoint and includes discussion of power, gender, identity, orientation, etc., while still registering that family values may vary).

  14. I have no teenager so I am clueless but I am reading a book right now called raising girls from Steve biddulf or biddulPh. Nice read.

  15. Original poster here. Thanks so much all of you. We have the books and she’s been reading them off and on for over a year actually. I think the worst part is the “toddler” tantrums as Jody said. Went through one this morning over clothing for school (and I do pick my battles, but this was a no way, no how). Just escalated out of nowhere. She gets lots of Dad time thankfully, but all of these things still result in the tantrums which there are consequences for. It’s so much harder when she’s nearly five feet tall though.

  16. I expect to have a two-year-old and preteen at the same time. While I can see many similarities, I expect the preteen to remain toilet trained and feed herself, in addition to having lots of independent activities, both scheduled and self-created. Does that make the preteen easier than the toddler? I am really hoping so.I see another Celeste commented above–how rare and wonderful to share my name–so I will happily be Another Celeste

  17. @MLB: Since I have boys, and tall ones at that, I expect I will spend a good number of years having to discipline while looking up at them. Something to get used to gradually I suppose.

  18. @MLB: nine is the worst. You will enjoy 10 a lot more. I promise. I volunteer with our scout troop and the 9’s all just really wore us out. The older leader even told me, it’s a horrible age and that’s why it’s so hard to find somebody to start a Junior troop. Interesting!

  19. Interesting on 9 with girls… 9 was easy with my boys. You’re making me worried (twins headed into 9 in the fall).Since the issue is not information, but just getting through the events, I’d say that witnessing and maybe looking into NonViolent Communication (NVC) techniques might help. Maybe. And making sure she has a retreat space, or a peace-corner type space to chill in.
    I think I’m going to go buy some books this weekend, because reading up on them it looks like now is the time to start them up… Deep breath.

  20. I’m the mom of an 11-year old girl. We’ve found that the tantrums/crying have tapered off quite dramatically over the last year. Part of this may be her body adjusting to puberty and part might be because she’s now at middle school which was a welcome relief from elementary school.I have to second whoever said exercise. I’ve found that a healthy dose of good exercise every day means my daughter eats better, sleeps better, is more focused when it comes to homework time and just generally is in a better mood.

  21. Has anyone else suggested herbs like lemon balm and kava and a whole host of others that help balance hormonal swings and PMS? I think this could be a very gentle support to lesson the extreme swings in mood for moms and daughters!

  22. @MyKidsMom, my brothers and I are all taller than my mom and all by the time we were each 12 years old. She would make us sit down before doing the finger wag/lecture/discipline. 🙂

  23. Nooooooo! My girl will be 9 in May and I’ve been hoping this current phase was just backlash because of new baby + new too-many-hours job. Seriously? Puberty already?I am really, truly, not-joking, no-hyperbole-here terrified about navigating this with my girl. I did not like pubescent girls when I WAS one, and I suck at dealing with the drama and the angst and I have no patience for it and that’s why I’m a software engineer. I am going to literally ruin my relationship with my only daughter, and I’m not ready to lose her yet.

  24. Until August 11 weeks pregnancy pictures Does anyone else think it’s weird that the woman is getting off watching her daughter? I think daughter with stepdad scenes are hot as hell, but having the mom there makes it creepy to me.

  25. I would see an acupuncturist or naturopath for some herbs and other help for the mood swings.I am a huge advocate for melatonin, for sleep issues. I wonder if since all her other hormones are out of whack, her melatonin production has taken a nose dive?
    I’m glad to hear she gets lots of Dad-time. My dad was the most amazing father-to-small-children, but right around 9-10, he just completely checked out. All those emotions freaked him out, I think. Girls need a strong male figure EVEN MORE during puberty, to help ground them and be a mirror to their growing sense of femininity.

  26. Also at 9, they just love to BE with other girls. They want to talk. They don’t really seem to go anywhere with it, but just being together is the goal. They like to brush each other’s hair. It’s really kind of sweet, when everyone’s in a good mood. They’re working out leader/follower roles, too, so it’s good to keep around nice girls. IMO it’s never too soon to worry about mean girls.

  27. Some parents find that cutting out sugars, refined foods, gluten helps calm the systems down. You have to try it for 21 days to figure it out, though.Might be worth a look.
    Good luck!

  28. @Jan, likewise. However, my mom ‘ruined’ her relationship with daughter (my next older sister) repeatedly in this span. They will never have a perfect relationship simply because they are different, but TRUST ME that there is no permanent in relationship if you’re trying. Be open about the fact that you will make mistakes, and will try to correct the ones you can, but will need some forgiveness and charity for being who you are, along with you granting her slack for who she is, too.My dad ruined his relationship with me, and I refused the ruination, held in, and was more stubborn about having SOME kind of communication than he was about messing it up. We now have a quite solid relationship, but I was in my 20’s before that happened. Lost time? sure. Lost love, no. Don’t despair. Accept that you will mangle some of this, and some of it will end up being cry-to-the-therapist material, but you’ll get other things right, and some stuff will be the envy of her friends. The goal is that she’ll be able to afford her therapy sessions, rather than that there won’t be any at all that feature you.
    And yes, I give myself this pep talk, too. I mangled my relationship with my eldest by mishandling the ‘new younger sibling’ thing and really dinged our closeness. It didn’t come back and didn’t come back and I thought it was gone (but refused to give up, stubborn that I am)… and then he hit 14, and there it was again, our mutual affection and closeness, fully formed and complete, like it had never left. Have faith in both of you, you’ll get through it, partly together, partly separately. Just stay in the conversation, and don’t give up.

  29. 🙂 Acceptant/Loving/Faithful plays in here a lot.It sounded like you needed to hear that. And you know? I needed to hear it, too, today. A lot. (Even if it was from me. Strangely, a lot of what I respond is what I needed to hear, myself. And a lot of what people post here is what I’m not even realizing I’m feeling until someone else says it. So thanks to you, too, because. yeah. Me and R, so heading into the meat grinder on this one.)
    (I forgot to say that my sister and mom are still oil/water personalities, but can talk for HOURS on the phone, and can be in the same house for a week plus without needing to Get Air. Which given that they are such different people, is pretty cool. Given that they at times drove each other to tears and rage, is a Grace, and a testiment to the idea of staying with the conversation.)

  30. Jody – perimenopause for me too! My girl is 10 with only breast buds so far and some obstinence that didn’t use to be there, fun times ahead! She has the AG books but is not ready to go beyond the hygiene issues…taking it one day at a time.

  31. very best job preteen vid nature seriously the sounds she makes make my penis go soft. boring and unbelievable, or perhaps to believable for how boring their interaction is

  32. The _Our Bodies, Ourselves_ folks had a book called _Changing Bodies, Changing Lives_ that I remember reading and liking, but I think I was a little older. Second the Judy Blume recommendation, as I remember those being very comforting.My 10 year old boy is still very much a little kid in behavior, but his hair and skin are starting to change. I’m not ready! Hoping boy-mom relationship is less fraught at this stage that girl-mom was for me!

  33. I came to also recommend the AG books. My daughters, ages 8 and 9, have read them and loved them. Oddly enough, my 9 year-old who is starting puberty (breast buds and the like) has been totally fine, behavior-wise. It’s my 8 year-old that worries me. No physical signs of puberty starting at all, but OMG the mood swings! She went from a sweet kid to a crazed lunatic in the past year. Same behaviors as everyone mentioned above. We’ve investigated whether there are any emotional issues or abuse but nothing so far. Anyone else experience these type of “typical teenage moody” behaviors in a girl not going through puberty yet?

  34. @Ali, our two are very different, at the same age. So … different people. And hormones start pouring in at around 7 in both genders, but physical health and amount of weight carried both impact the onset and probably also the dynamics (since adipose tissue also generates constant estrogen, that may end up creating different symptoms per child).The boys had testosterone surges starting between 7 and 8. I’d read somewhere that in boys they’re less cyclic and more periodic – three days of testosterone push, then random-seeming durations between those, a few days to a few weeks or more. We spotted it thanks to my sister (whose son is the eldest cousin, and who mentioned that testosterone seemed to make her son want to touch everything and everyone). My boys wanted to touch everything, hit it, push it, etc., plus got intensely angry about stuff for three or four days, then were back to normal again. … oh, wait. Maybe that explains Mr B lately, too. D’oh!
    Anyway, ‘moody slow burn with spikes’ and ‘moody jaggedy intense all the time’ are my two daughters at 8. You’re not alone.

  35. Great. I just realized that with the girls going into pre-puberty madness, we have four kids in puberty at the same time.Urk.
    That said, at this span (all or most in puberty), my mom was ready to give us all away to gypsies, and we’re really not hating it overall. So, yay!

  36. Thank you, Hedra. They are close in age but extremely different in body type and temperament so I should have realized puberty would affect them differently too! I guess I’m still in shock that it’s all happening so early. I expected to wait a few more years for all of this (around 12 when I hit puberty.) Moxie, thanks for sharing this question and starting the whole discussion.

  37. Thanks for the recs – got the AG books for my almost-9 who is very tall & sturdy for her age but is showing no outward puberty signs. She really likes them and appreciated them, but thought a bunch of the things that happen to a female body seemed gross. I’m not sure how to handle that – I mean “your underwear will be sticky at the end of the day” sounds, well, gross. Periods are undeniably messy. Stinky pits are stinky. So I don’t want to pretend it’s all sunshine and rainbows shooting out of sacred yonis, but I also don’t want to be all “yeah, the whole womanhood thing is a curse”. Any advice from moms of older girls on walking the line?

  38. Another vote for Robie Harris and Michael Emberley’s “It’s Perfectly Normal.” It does deal with mature subjects (sex, HIV, etc.) so if you have a young child going through puberty you may prefer one of the other books that has been recommended (or you could just read them selected chapters but not give them the whole book until they’re older). But it’s very straightforward and non-judgmental. One of my favorite things about it is that all different body types are represented in the illustrations (not just a bunch of thin Caucasian people), reinforcing the idea that whatever you look like, that’s perfectly normal.

  39. As a 17 year old, I remember this phase more vividly than I’d like. I enthusiastically recommend Judy Blume, also’s book called Deal With It. It handles a lot of sex ed stuff, but also has chapters like “sucky emotions.” It’s written in a way that appeals to tweens and includes lots of first-hand testimony, and it was my road map through the rough years. I still consult it sometimes. The information it provides is good, but the assurance that you’re not alone is better.I also weathered the puberty storm by reading constantly about feminism, especially the Riot Grrl movement of the 90s. Their music and writings taught me confidence, how to handle anger, and that it’s okay to feel everything that I was feeling. Check it out and introduce your daughter to Sleater Kinney, the Raincaots, and Bikini Kill. For reading material, I recommend A Girl’s Guide to taking Over the World: Writings from the Girl Zine Revolution. The most well-adjusted teenagers I know got through puberty with feminism.

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