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Girl Talk

Does the thought of discussing puberty with your growing little girl make you flinch? A Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated OB/GYN and Girlology instructor is here to help  

Girl moms and dads: Pay attention to your daughter’s shoes. Yep, fast-growing arms, hands, legs and feet are a first signpost that puberty is on the horizon. Aside from going shoe shopping, have you considered how or when you’ll broach the complex—perhaps intimidating—topic of puberty with your child? 

“It’s ideal to start the conversation around age 8,” says Dr. Jennifer Fisher, a Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated OB/GYN. “Puberty can be a frightening, out-of-control time, but when girls know what’s coming, they can feel more confident and less overwhelmed when the changes start.”

All humans go through puberty to become reproductive adults. Physical and sexual development appears alongside cognitive, emotional and social changes. According to the National Institutes of Health, girls typically start puberty between ages 8 and 12 and boys between ages 9 and 14. 

“To help prepare your daughter, it’s important to discuss practical topics like menstruation, breast development, hygiene and acne,” says Dr. Fisher. “Equally important is talking about more big-picture concepts like responsibility, sexuality, confidence, consent and relationships.” 

If you want backup, there’s a resource that can help. Girlology is a doctor-led platform that educates girls and their caregivers about what to expect during puberty. In-person classes and on-demand digital content—like blog posts, videos and e-courses—cover the topics above and many others. “Girls get reassurance that what they’re going through is normal and that they’re not alone,” says Dr. Fisher, who is a Girlology instructor. 

Dr. Fisher’s biggest piece of advice for talking puberty with your child? “Keep the lines of communication open.” Have age-appropriate conversations early and often, use correct body terminology from the start and try to stay calm. “You may not have objective coolness,” she says, “but if you don’t freak out, your child is more likely to feel they can always come to you with questions or concerns.” —Kimberly L. Riggs

Change Is A-Coming!

Puberty is a whirlwind, with nonstop physical changes. Here’s a breakdown of the various phases—known as the Tanner Stages—of puberty for girls:

Get Girlology 

Find free tip videos at Girlology.com. Register online for members-only content and live-streamed events. In-person classes are currently suspended due to the pandemic, but families can take part in live Zoom classes. 

NEW RESEARCH: Keep in Touch

A 2020 study underscores the significance of skin-to-skin contact between babies and caregivers 

Any parent knows that newborn babies crave cuddle time. But a new study puts a spotlight on just how impactful going skin-to-skin with your little one can be. Researchers at University College London analyzed 27 infants’ brain responses during a necessary heel prick by placing electrodes on the children’s scalps. Some babies wore just a diaper while being held in a parent’s bare arms during the jab. Others wore clothing while being held, and others still were swaddled in an incubator or crib for the shot. Across the board, the babies who were skin-to-skin—wearing just a diaper in their mom or dad’s unclothed arms—had less neural reactivity to the pain than the infants in the other two groups. The study adds to a strong body of evidence showing benefits of skin-to-skin contact between babies and their caregivers. Research shows that it can boost the baby’s immune system, lower parents’ stress levels, promote production of mom’s breast milk, help the baby gain weight and more. 

Photographs by (mom & daughter) Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock & (father & baby) Lopolo/shutterstock. Girlology photograph courtesy of Girlology.

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