The 9 Things Every Girl Should Know by Age 10
Posted 3/14/2016 by UHBlog
Most parents would love to preserve indefinitely the innocence of their daughter playing dress-up and hosting tea parties. But in today’s changing world, it’s important to address more grown-up issues by the time girls are 10 years old.
“This is a time when everything feels really embarrassing, but assure (your daughter) she doesn’t need to feel embarrassed,” says pediatrician Sara Lee, MD. “If she can talk about these questions now, then when she gets a little older and has questions she might consider more embarrassing, then hopefully she will feel comfortable talking to you then.”
According to Dr. Lee, parents should talk to young girls about these nine issues:
- Basic anatomy – Use appropriate names for body parts instead of euphemisms. Around age 8 or 9, begin discussing how those body parts will soon change. By age 10, girls should know what to expect during puberty.
- Breasts – Some girls are delighted with their budding breasts, while others are self-conscious about them. Likewise, some preteens are eager to buy a bra (even if they don’t need one) and others are totally disinterested (although they could use the support). Girls tend to “measure” themselves against their peers, so assure your daughter that breast development occurs at different ages and to different degrees. Reiterate you understand her concerns and will guide her through the changes.
- Menstruation – Some girls are excited about getting their periods and others are frightened by the prospect.
“Be aware of what your preteen is thinking,” Dr. Lee says. “Is she worried because she doesn’t have her period? Assure her what she’s going through is normal and everyone else is worried they’re not normal, too.”
When appropriate, Dr. Lee recommends giving your daughter a book about girls who don’t get their period as young as their peers do.
“Or, your pediatrician can do an exam to reassure her that her puberty is progressing,” Dr. Lee says.
Talk to your daughter about hygiene and tampon use during menstruation. If she chooses to use tampons, be prepared to help her at first. If you’re a single dad, enlist the help of a trusted adult female.
- Sex – There’s more to "The Talk" than covering how babies are made, pregnancy is avoided and infections are prevented.
“Talk about what’s important to you and your family in terms of values,” she says. “With younger kids, talk about appropriate and inappropriate touches and that their body is their body. You need to teach a 10-year-old respect for others and herself.”
- Sexual and gender identity – Thanks to a multitude of TV shows, movies, hit songs and other media, very young kids understand that people of the same sex can be attracted to each other. Likewise, Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn Jenner has spurred discussion about transgender issues. Should parents address these topics with their pre-pubescent daughter?
“It can be appropriate if (girls) are developmentally ready for the conversation,” Dr. Lee says. “I would keep it simple. Some of the books that parents can use to explain sex include those topics.”
As with all issues, offer your daughter a nonjudgmental ear to listen to her concerns.
- Hygiene – Certainly convey the importance of showering, grooming hair and brushing and flossing teeth. But don’t overlook another aspect of your daughter’s emerging puberty.
"She might need deodorant,” she says.
- Drugs – Talk to girls about the dangers of illicit drugs, but don’t scare them into being afraid to take prescribed medications they may need.
“Teach them there are (bad) drugs out there and it’s not something you want them doing,” Dr. Lee says. “If their friends are doing it, that doesn’t mean they should. They should tell you about it. Teach them it’s their body and what they do with their body is important.”
- Body image – “You don’t want to focus on her weight or appearance,” she says. “If you’re worried about her weight, talk about it with her pediatrician. Instead, focus on making healthy choices.”
That includes eating a “rainbow” of five colorful fruits and veggies daily and learning to cook so she can prepare her own healthy snacks. Encourage daily exercise.
- Bullying – Tell your daughter it’s not okay to bully other children and it’s not okay for her to be victimized by a bully.
“Girls at this age can be mean because they’re trying on different personalities,” Dr. Lee says. “Help them through it. If somebody is being mean to them and it gets out of control, you need to intervene with the school.”
No matter the concern, Dr. Lee says it’s always appropriate to tell your daughter, “You are unique. You are loved. You are special.”
Sara Lee, MD is a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Lee or any other University Hospitals doctor online.