Early bloomers: Little girls in women's bodieson May 9, 2012 @ 3:17 pm (Updated: 8:33 am - 5/10/12 )
"Having a womanly body with a child who's psychologically not at all there yet is a problem," says Dr. Anne-Marie Amies Oelschlager, an ObGyn at Seattle Children's Hospital.
Her focus is on young girls as they turn into young women.
Breast development generally starts around age 10, but Oelschlager says she is seeing more and more girls who are showing that first sign of puberty at just six or seven. That leaves parents with the awkward dilemma of how to talk to a little girl about some pretty grown-up issues.
Some worry even starting the conversation will lead to a snowball of questions they are not ready to answer. Dr. Oelschlager says with very young girls, that probably won't happen.
"What I try to do is actually ask them to ask me exactly what they want to know. Sometimes they may ask you a question like 'Where do babies come from?' and you kind of want to tell them everything," Oelschlager says.
Parents will sometimes want to give a very detailed answer, when the child really just wants to know if there is any truth to the story about a stork. Oelschlager recommends keeping your answers short, clear, and concise.
Wait to see if there is a follow-up question before diving any deeper. Oftentimes, if the girl feels like she has been given a straightforward answer, the conversation may end there.
But, the doctor says there is still another issue that will need to be addressed. When a girl starts to get curves, she will also usually go through a growth spurt and end up looking a lot older than her chronological age. It may lead to some unexpected attention.
For these early bloomers, Oelschlager says it's especially important to remind girls about personal boundaries. Also, let them know it's OK to tell mom and dad anything.
"I personally have this momma bear story where I say - I'm you're momma bear. Nobody's crossing me. I'm going to protect you as best I can," Oelschlager says.
You may be wondering if there is a way to put the brakes on the whole thing. There is still no consensus on why girls are developing early.
Dr. Oelschlager says girls who are overweight do tend to go through puberty a little earlier. Girls who are really active in sports tend to have a little later onset.
"I think keeping your kids healthy and active is one of the best ways to let it happen at a very natural time," says Oelschlager.
If you do have an early-bloomer, you should let your pediatrician know. There can be more than just discomfort caused by early puberty. Dr. Oelschlager says an early growth spurt may mean an early end to growth.
The tests for early puberty tend to be blood work and x- rays. Chances are, your daughter will not have to undergo an invasive physical exam.
Seattle Children's Hospital also offers classes specially designed for girls going through puberty (as well as for boys).
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