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Early Puberty and the Outside World

When your child interacts with other kids or adults, questions may arise about her early development. Older kids might want to befriend her because of the way she looks, even though she’s much younger than they are socially and emotionally.

Pay attention to your child’s group of friends -- there are many good reasons to do so. A study in 2007 showed that the age and behavior of children’s social groups played a strong role in whether children with precocious puberty got involved in using drugs or alcohol. As a parent, you can set household rules that will protect your child, including the age of her friends.

De Reyna took a matter-of-fact approach to discussing her daughter’s precocious puberty. “I don’t believe in hiding the truth from kids,” she says. “It makes kids believe there’s something wrong with them.” When a kid at school asked her daughter why she had breasts, de Reyna told her to say, “because I’m a girl,” and leave it at that.

De Reyna took a similar approach with curious adults. Other parents often commented on how tall Emily was compared to the other kids. Kids with precocious puberty are often tall for their age initially, but may stop growing at an earlier age reaching shorter heights as adults. “I’d either just smile and say, ‘yes, she is tall’ or I’d tell them she had a medical condition. That was always enough,” says de Reyna.

Starting Conversations About Early Puberty

Given how important parents are to their children’s self-acceptance, it’s worth it to work through your discomfort and keep the lines of communication open about precocious puberty.

Maybe you worry about embarrassing your child. Wibbelsman says parents can set aside one-on-one time to dispel discomfort. “Go for a ride or go shopping. Make sure your child knows she has your complete attention.”

If you child clams up, you can try putting out books about puberty for your child to read and use them as a conversation starter. For instance, after the book has been around for a week or two, ask your child, “What did you think of that book? Did you have any questions after looking at it?”

Keep in mind that parent-child conversations are not over after one chat, but take place over time. If your early attempts feel dead in the water, rest assured that you’ve let your child know you are open to talking. She now has the opportunity to come to you when she needs you.

Puberty: What's Normal?

When should puberty start? See the ages and changes to expect.
View slideshow