I was roughly the age that most of my friends got their periods–totally normal–but I still felt like a total freak.
Last week, the New York Times ran a big story about “early puberty,” focusing on how a ton of 6, 7, and 8-year-old girls are starting to grow breasts and pubic hair before the average girl. Overall, the article was packed with information, but I do have one major problem with it–and that’s the term “early puberty.” If a girl is hitting puberty in the third grade, that might not be “normal” compared to the rest of the world, but it certainly is normal for her, and I can’t see how freaking out about it and schlepping her around to specialist doctors will do anything but freak her out more.Besides, studies show that by age seven, 1 in 10 white girls, nearly 1 in 4 African-American girls, and close to 2 in 10 Hispanic girls are already developing breasts. With numbers like that, this “early puberty” thing seems pretty common (and normal!) to me.
Apparently, some parents are insisting on their daughters getting hormone shots to slow down the progress of puberty–but the scary thing is that these same shots that can keep a little girl “little” can also cause things like osteoperosis, a serious condition that involves the weakening of your bones. Is that worth it? I don’t think so, and I bet if girls were given a choice, they’d say they didn’t want the shots, either!
Nobody knows for sure what’s causing really young girls to start developing breasts, but if I know anything about girls, I know that when we start getting breasts or our period starts or–whatever–it’s mortifying, and we just want to be left alone about it.
It seems like there are some things parents can do when their daughters are babies and toddlers that might help prevent early puberty–like making sure their kids eat healthy food without hormones, that they exercise, and that they do not become obese–but once a girl is already hitting puberty, no matter how old she is, isn’t that time to just accept it and try to support her the best you can? I think so, especially since girls who develop early are already at higher risk of having low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders. Youch! Girls who hit puberty early need extra love and hugs–not prescription drugs!
So if you started developing early, maybe even before all your friends, try not to freak out. It’s actually pretty normal now. No, it’s not super fun to go through all these changes, but we all go through it sometime. You are not alone!
How old were you when you started developing? Did you feel kind of embarrassed about it? How old were you when you got your first period? Do you think early puberty is something we should freak out about? Tell me everything in the comments!