A rising 3rd grader puberty

I've been in denial but can't ignore it any longer. Our 8 year old daughter has definitely entered puberty -- breast developing, growth spurt, widening hips, thickening arm and leg hairs. She is the tallest in her class and is tall enough to sit in the front seat of a car! I found her touching her vaginal area. We have a doctor's appointment this month. We had an appointment last year when she began mentioning that her breast area was getting hard. The doctor says she's within a normal range. We're first time parents and are panicking a bit. What do we do next? Do we buy some book to ready together? What books are good? Should we be concerned that she is physically so much more mature than her peers in her grade? She is the oldest and tallest due to having a fall birthday. We now regret not pushing for K instead of TK. We're not ready for her to stop being a kid. We don't feel ready for her to grow up so fast! 

Anyways, any words of wisdom you may have will be much appreciated. Thank you. 

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RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

I have no real advice except I've heard great things about the Thinx--period panties for kids.

My main reason for writing is because I'm so scared of this happening to us. I went through puberty when I was in 3rd/4th grade when it was really unusual. It's odd,but earlier puberty has risen a lot in frequency over the last 30 years. The plus side is that there are more resources for girls and your daughter might not be the only one in her class.

We have gotten books (It's not the stork) and left them out because we're cowards. Also, American Girl has some good books about emotions--but also on this subject and basic body care. I think the main thing to do is help her not feel like she's the only one her age going through it. 

So much sympathy--I think 8 is too young too, but you're not alone. 

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

I was a very early “developer”.  The main problem for me was men in the streets cat calling and making gross gestures etc… I didn’t understand and I thought there was something bad about me that didn’t disservice respect. Also, boys in school did there own mean version of this, though less scary, still bullying. Hopefully, her school has progressed in the 30 years since I went. But still, I think it’s important to let her know that men can be mean to girls and women in this world and to tell an adult when they are. Also, they are the gross ones and you can tell them so, but still tell a grown up. Touching herself is no biggie, I was touching myself as a baby. That’s part of childhood too, not just adulthood. Honestly, I never lost my childhood 😂. I think the only thing that took a little bit of my childhood away with the way that men responded to me.

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

I am a third-grade teacher (and mom to a 9th-grade girl) and have seen many 8 and 9-year-olds in my career. It is not unusual for girls to start puberty in 3rd grade, with just the signs you are noticing. Usually, these girls (boys don't have as many "outward signs" of puberty early on - except B.O. - so it's the girls who stand out) are the first in the class to start with these noticeable changes and in my experience, the other students are completely oblivious to any of the physical changes except for height. However, it's not uncommon for girls to start with more mature social behaviors as well, such as cliques, interest in more mature fashion etc. Often this goes along with girls who have older sisters, as well.

As third-grade teachers, we don't discuss body changes in our grade. But it's a great topic to bring up at any teacher/parent conferences and let her teachers know this is starting. They can be on the lookout for some of the social behaviors and encourage age-appropriate interactions. In my experience, it's never too early for deodorant (there are some great all-natural brands) for boys and girls! Most likely, your daughter will get her period in 4th or 5th grade which, again, happens in elementary school all the time. You know your daughter best, so if you think she can handle the birds and the bees talk, it's a good time to do that. Then show her maxi pads etc and have some at-the-ready. Again, letting her teachers know this is on your mind and in her not-too-distant future, will also help them help her. School will have maxi pads for girls who need them, but sending a few for the teacher to have on-hand may not be crazy (although most likely not needed next year.) I have several girls every year who wear modest, age-appropriate bras in third grade. Check out Yellowberry.com for some great "first bras" that my 9th-grade daughter still loves. 

I think the goal of my post is to let you know that you are absolutely not alone, this is very common, and your daughter will be just fine! Open communication with her, depending on what she is able to understand and need, is key. Nothing to be ashamed of - happens to all of us just at different times! Hugs.

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

Hi there, 

Thanks for reaching out for support! There are some great resources available. Here are some I recommend: 

All around support:

Videos and supportive resources:

Podcasts: 

Books:

       -- Christopher Pepper

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

Hi there,

I was like your daughter! Always the tallest in the class, developed early, got my period at age 9. I just wanted to reassure you that I was still very much a kid, and continued to play with dolls, read fantasy books, and other things like that even after I physically hit puberty. I would say all the emotional/psychological maturation happened gradually, over a few years, maybe lagging behind the physical a bit. There were some awkward years, but everyone catches up pretty quickly, and it all evens out in the end. I would just be really present with your daughter, and continue to support her sense of self, wherever she’s at! Good luck with this poignant and sweet time of life. 

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

As the mom of two daughters who are now 'young ladies', I can relate to the questions and concerns that come up as your daughter is growing up. My first bit of advice would be to PLEASE sit down with her father and talk through your feelings about her development. These are YOUR issues--valid, yes, but you need to address them ASAP, so you don't give your daughter hangups about her development. As her doctor noted, she is in normal range and should not be made to feel her body is a concern for you. It doesn't matter if parents are ready or not--kids do grow up fast! I also want to point out your perception that her early physical development means that somehow she's going to "stop being a kid". She isn't, but maybe your idea of what kids do and look like needs to change. For example, please do not be so quick to assume that early physical development means early sexual development. She may have been exploring her "vaginal area" because she is curious about her changing body. If you affirm her ownership of her body and right to discover it and know what's going on with it, you will help her immensely with her relationship to her body. It sounds like you should look into reading materials for you and her dad to review. For your daughter, I highly recommend the book I gave my girls, The Care & Keeping of You. Surprisingly, it is from the American Girl doll company, but don't let that bias your opinion. Here's a link: https://www.americangirl.com/shop/p/the-care-keeping-of-you-f2032 Get your daughter her own copy so that she can review at her choice and pace. Make sure she knows she can come to you with questions or comments.

One last note, since your question gives me a little platform here. I realize this a total lost cause with our society obsessed with the word vagina, but please teach your daughter that her "vaginal area"--AKA "down there" when I was growing up--is her vulva. It makes me crazy to hear everyone (women!!) refer to what they can see between their legs as their vagina. My daughters use the term and roll their eyes to my constant corrections, but it isn't that enlightened to use the wrong terms about our own bodies. My two cents!

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

No wisdom here, but I feel for you! They do grow up so fast... Don't worry though, the onset of puberty at 8 is not considered "early" these days for girls. Of course, I've learned that when I was so worried about my 7.5 year old daughter showing signs of puberty.  For context, I'm Eastern European Jew, my husband is a Latino. My daughter's pediatrician has assured me that there was nothing to worry about, and that puberty in Caucasian girls is considered "normal" if it starts at 7.5. Here's the Academy of American Pediatrics guidelines on precocious puberty where they define it as "onset of puberty before age 8 in girls":  https://www.aap.org/en-us/Documents/soen_precocious_puberty.pdf.

The genetics also contributes to the timing of puberty's onset. In my family's case, I have learned that my husband's older sister got her first period at age 12, and my mother (who was born in Russia during World War II) had her first period at 11. I don't think we'd ever find all that out if I haven't asked them because I was - unnecessarily - worried about my daughter going through early puberty. While my first period came at the age of 16, my daughter must be following in her grandma's and aunt's footsteps and will get it around age 11-12. You may want to ask your female relatives about when they had theirs.

As for books, I bought one for us parents and another one for my daughter. I really like the one I got for us, "The New Puberty: How to Navigate Early Development in Today's Girls". It boils down to that puberty starts earlier these days and we got to recognize that, accept it, and help our kids do the same. It's a great read for a nerd as it offers an insight in how puberty unfolds in medical/biological terms, but is easy enough to read for someone who's not into the scientific detail. In addition, it talks about what we parents can do to help to delay the onset of puberty (not because puberty is a bad thing but because there's a link between that and life expectancy), e.g. switch to organic food, beauty products, etc., encourage healthy eating habits and exercise, and strive to provide safe and stable environment conducive to healthy emotional development. The book may cause feelings of guilt as we can't always be perfect and eat organic food only and never have conflict or avoid adverse events such as divorce, but then again it's not the book's fault that we feel guilty about not being perfect. Anyway, that's a totally different convo.

As for books for girls, I looked for used books and found many that would do just fine. I ended up picking up "Girl to Girl: Honest Talk About Growing Up and Your Changing Body", and my daughter has been reading and re-reading it, and I liked it as well.

Here are the links to both books: 

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/162336342X/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_as...

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/1452102422/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_as...

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

I know the feelings you are having! My niece (who is now 16) had the exact same developmental trajectory--early puberty starting when she was about 8.  My sister was so worried and in shock. But the doctors said it was within the normal range and did not recommend any intervention.  My sister did share age appropriate puberty books with my niece, did a puberty class with her, and provided a lot of information and answered all her questions regarding the body development. Do remember that although her body is developing, she is still 8 years old.  My niece was uninterested in discussions about sexuality, sexual feelings, etc... until much later--my sister checked to make sure, but then left that part of the puberty discussion aside till my niece was ready--so their early discussions were about the body changes and pragmatics of what that meant (rather than on the sexual relationship side of puberty). My sister had to work hard on managing her own worries about my niece's development so that she did not transmit them to my niece.  She did a good job because my niece was comfortable with her body, not too worried about others, and it really seemed like a non-issue to her that she was an early developer. They talked about the fact that development happens at all different times and that all her friends would also go through this, and that she had a head start.  My niece went from being the tallest and most developed girl in 3rd grade to fitting in with about half the class when she was in 5th grade, to 10th grade where she's right in the mix with everyone else.  Hang in there! At this point I'd completely forgotten that we were all worried about this 8 years ago! 

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

Your daughter is lucky to have such an empathic and proactive parent. My daughter loved the The Care and Keeping of You and other books published by the  American Girl empire. They were accessible, age appropriate and empowering. This was a while ago (she's almost 25) but I checked and they're still being published. She definitely read them elementary school, though I can't remember which grade. Good luck to you.

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

Our daughter is not there yet but it we have loved the book: "The ultimate puberty book for girls celebrate your body and its changes too." It is informative, educational, body-positive, and empowering and I would recommend to any parent who's daughter is preparing or going through puberty. I'm in Alameda but if you are interested, we have an extra copy that her aunt got for her. Feel free to DM me and I can leave out on the porch for you.

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

So sorry! Here is a bit of science with may help. 

Endocrine disruptors, which are common in personal care products, have been implicated in early puberty. 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23485241/

Here is some info about avoiding endocrine disruptors: 

https://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides/dirty-dozen-endocrine-disruptors

Easy fixes: use fragrance-free products only and never put plastic in the microwave. There is plenty more that can be done, part of which is in the article. 

I hope you find a way through this uncomfortable situation. 

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

I don't have medical advice, but my main thought is that you keep in mind that the years she has lived on earth are eight, and so though people may have expectations of her because of how her body looks, she is going to have more or less the same emotional/cognitive development as other children her age. I taught high school for many years, and I was always struck with the discrepancy between how many of the younger students (particularly girls) were viewed, and their actual interests, which were usually much more about learning sports, or instruments, or theater, etc., and reading/watching fairly young books and shows. So, protect her as much as you can from unfair expectations. My daughter hit puberty at a more usual age, 11 or so, and I was shocked at the way older teens and adult men behaved around her.

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

Our 9yo daughter began showing signs of puberty before even turning 8. She is in the 98th percentile for height and the 95th percentile for weight.  If we hadn’t been doing virtual schooling this past year I would have insisted she put on a bra for school by the middle of the school year (3rd grade). I bought a book to review puberty changes and questions, but she has had no interest in reading it (alone or together) so it has just been sitting on the counter in plain sight for six months now in case she changes her mind. I did make her start wearing a bra anytime we leave the house a few months ago. It took a while to find one she thought was comfortable - I recommend checking out Bleuet. They’re not cheap, but she likes them, I like that they’re simple and modest, and they wash well.  We just take questions as they come - when she asks anything, I make sure to stop what I’m doing and answer fully. She then usually goes on her way and seems content, until the next question comes to mind. One day she wanted to know how she would eventually shave her armpit hair and we showed her a razor. Another day she wanted to know about period supplies so we pulled out a few maxipads and let her see and feel them. I agree with your overall sentiment that it seems like she is growing up too fast and I’m not ready, but she doesn’t seem to be having any teasing about it at school and I don’t want her to be self-conscious, so I’m just taking it as it comes!  All the best. 

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

One more thought - our daughter’s birthday is in March, so don’t hold onto your regret over the TK/K situation too long. It may have made no difference at all. 

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

I can't speak to dealing with a girl's development but I can highly recommend the Stanford Children's Health Series called 'The Chat' as a way to introduce your daughter to puberty in an age appropriate way.  I took the 5 class series with my 11 year old son this Spring and it was extremely informative, giving him the information he needed in a humorous and factual way.  The best part is that it is designed for your child to take it with a parent.  There are times when the two of you talk to each other about a question they pose.  It has led to an amazing amount of openness between us about what is happening to his body and how he feels - and this is from a kid who is notoriously private!   I can't recommend this class series enough!  I plan to continue with the later teen series when they seem appropriate.  Good luck!

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

I hope you get a lot of responses but here’s my 2 cents:

1) Talk to your child’s pediatrician. My daughter’s pediatrician was a wealth of information and can talk to your daughter but you should also get used to doing that as well.

2) Our pediatrician recommended getting “The Care and Keeping of You.” It’s for your daughter but good for the parents to skim as well. We got books 1 and 2 at the same time.

3) So she’s touching her vaginal area. I hope you didn’t freak out in front of her. It’s perfectly normal for her to do that. That said, you may want to talk to her about what’s acceptable in public versus private.

Good luck. This is an exciting time! Don’t panic. Replace your fears with knowledge or else your daughter will pick up on your hang ups.

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

Middle school health teacher here. Take some breaths and remember that you still have an 8 year old kid. Her body may start changing and people may start treating her differently as a result. But her brain is still an 8 year old kid and you'll need to protect her from others who assume that she is older based on her body. I highly recommend that you read some books as parents to relieve your anxiety so you don't pass that anxiety onto your kid. Puberty is a normal process that most humans go through starting anywhere from 8-15 years old and puberty is far from just the physical body changes, which is what society tends to focus on. FYI brains continue developing until at least age 25 so she's got a lot of growing up to do still!

I can't recommend Sex Positive Families enough as the founder (a black/Latinx mom) has compiled incredible resources and leads virtual workshops  (https://sexpositivefamilies.com/services/) to help families raise sexually healthy children using a shame-free, comprehensive, and pleasure-positive approach. Sort through the resources here: https://sexpositivefamilies.com/resources/results/ You can filter by topic, age, and type of resource. She recommends a wide range of books as well and many I have found at our local library (or recommended that our library purchase them) - I used it to find books about feelings for my toddler for example. 

https://amaze.org/parents/ also has fantastic videos that I use in my classroom. They have fantastic cartoon videos and lots of parent resources (including a podcast). 

Both orgs that I mentioned has strong social media presence too!

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

Hi, there - I was in your daughter’s shoes when I was her age. My puberty started even earlier and I was on hormone therapy for a few years to delay it until I was your daughter’s age. I’m in my mid-30s now, so early puberty was very rare then. I developed and grew up just fine, and my experience is just that, the experience of one person, but I would say it’s important to be supported by her pediatrician (both medically and with the resources that you need to learn and understand what’s happening), and to also notice how much of your own bias you bring into this phase and impose on her - as anxiety, judgment, or any other negative emotions. It sounds like this is shocking and confusing phase, and you’re feeling emotionally unprepared for it. As a parent myself, I can imagine all of this - our kids are their own people and can totally throw us off with things that happen in their lives that are completely new to us, so it’s important that your doctor(s) have both yours and your daughter’s back, that you get the resources you need (like you are already trying to do). My family was very freaked out and extremely worried by my experience, for many years, and this affected me adversely, to this day it affects my perception of my sexuality and biases me to think I’m not “normal,” even though I developed without any issues and am now married and have a child from a perfectly healthy pregnancy. I’m sure you know this because you’ve raised a healthy child for years already: children pick up on the emotions and thoughts of the primary adults in their lives like sponges, we are their primary point of reference. I don’t have any resources to share, unfortunately, but do find what you need to learn more, work with your doctor, and just be there for your daughter through everything she is/will go through - puberty is scary, regardless of age. Sending you and your daughter lots of love! 

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

We started with It's So Amazing and then when my daughter got a little older, I got It's Perfectly Normal, both by Robie Harris. The newer editions include some information for non-cisgender kids, families with same gender parents, and adopted kids. It's So Amazing focuses on talking about puberty, sex, relationships, and how babies are made in an age-appropriate way (geared toward age 7 and up). It's Perfectly Normal (ages 10 and up) goes into more depth about puberty and sexual health. Another cute book I got that is super straightforward, but also funny, is called Does This Happen to Everyone?, by Jan Von Holleben and Antje Helms. Looks like it's on Amazon now -- I had to order it from the UK.

Two sex ed parent coach type people I've gotten a lot of good information from is Cath Hakanson at Sex Ed Rescue (lots of info about puberty, and also from Australia and really funny), and Amy Lang at Birds + Bees + Kids who is a local resource, especially if you decide you want some parent coaching.

Good luck to you! It is so bittersweet seeing our kiddos grow up! Talking to my daughter's pediatrician helped. My daughter developed breast buds in 3rd grade and by her 10th birthday in 4th grade, I was sure she was going to get her period any day now. Her doc said, maybe, but maybe not -- she may keep developing and may go through a spurt and then stay that way for a while. She didn't get her period for another year. DM me if you want to chat more.

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

I want to gently encourage you to manage your own feelings about this so that you can be calm, supportive, and measured when speaking to your daughter. The panic is clear in your post.  Please calm down.  Growing up is normal and natural and the most important message you can give your daughter is that our bodies all change during this time, and that our bodies are all different and develop on different timelines, but all our bodies are strong and great and beautiful.  To answer your question concretely, yes, if you have not already bought books about puberty and growing up and body changes, that is what you should do first. There are many great ones out there.  Try to calm yourself so that you can be mellow and chill as you read them with your kid.  You do not need her to pick up on your anxiousness.  Read the books, encourage open and honest conversations, ask your daughter what support she wants from you (help picking out a bra?  any questions she needs you to answer?), and embrace this new phase your kid is going through and the strong, capable body that will take her through the coming years.  

RE: A rising 3rd grader puberty ()

Hi there,

Our 7 year old son was diagnosed with early onset puberty, and we saw a specialist at Children's Hospital about hormone suppression until the age of 10-11 years old, which we did. It worked fine, and he's a normal 20 year old guy. A child hitting puberty early would have to deal with both social and physical growth issues associated with it. When a child hits puberty early, their physical growth (height, mainly) is compromised in order to develop into an adult. Perhaps it is hereditary. In our case, my husband's brother clearly is much smaller a fellow and did hit puberty early. He's now a good 6-7 inches shorter than my husband. Not sure how women are affected, but clearly the social issues must be difficult at that age. Good luck!