Several studies have documented earlier onset of puberty in girls over the past few decades. In a longitudinal study following more than 1,200 girls for seven years, researchers found those with higher BMI had earlier onset of puberty, as measured by breast development, and that white girls are entering puberty at younger ages than previously reported. The study, “Onset of Breast Development in a Longitudinal Cohort,” in the December 2013 Pediatrics (published online Nov. 4), tracked girls in San Francisco, Cincinnati and New York City. The age at onset of breast development varied by race, BMI, and geographic location. In white, non-Hispanic girls, breast development began at a median age of 9.7 years, which is earlier than previously documented, according to the study authors. Black girls continue to experience breast development earlier than white girls, at a median age of 8.8 years, compared to 9.3 years for Hispanic girls and 9.7 years for Asian girls. However, BMI was a stronger predictor of puberty onset than race or ethnicity. Study authors conclude the earlier onset of puberty in white girls is likely due to greater obesity.
Just because a food is pesticide-free doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more nutritious, according to a study just published by the American Academy of Pediatricsp (AAP). Dr. Janet Silverstein, a professor at the University of Florida found that there is actually no nutritional difference between pesticide-free and foods that are traditionally produced. Silverstein and her colleagues analyzed a number of factors, including the effects of hormones on the food and exposure to chemicals, and even the environmental impact. And their results applied to dairy products, meats, and produce.
We’ve all (or at least those of us with daughters) heard about how girls growing up today are starting puberty younger than girls who came of age just a few generations ago. And we’ve all (whether we have boys or girls) heard about how boys are lagging behind girls in every measurable academic milestone, whether it’s grades, test scores, high-school graduation rates, college degrees, or professional degrees. But when it comes to puberty, it looks like boys may be closing the gap. And that may not be a good thing.
Be the Go-to Person about Sex + Preventing and Treating Concussion + Winning Your Son’s Heart + Getting to 3rd Base
www.amazon.co.ukGuest 1: Deborah Roffman, author of Talk to Me First.
Topic: Everything you need to know to become your kids’ “go-to” person about sex.
Issues: Teach kids to view sexually-saturated media critically; how to become an approachable, askable resource for your children; how to foster ongoing conversations about difficult topics; put meaningful context around the topic of sexuality in a world where most messages are misguided and uninformed.
www.amazon.co.ukGuest 2: Rosemarie Scolaro Moser, author of Ahead of the Game.
Topic: Understanding youth sports concussions.
Issues: What exactly is a concussion? When can a child who’s had a concussion get back on the field? How concussions negatively affect children’s GPA, school performance, and emotional behavior; helmets and mouthguards—even when properly fitted—can’t prevent concussion; why girls are more vulnerable to concussion that boys; why state concussion laws may not be enough to keep kids safe.
www.amazon.co.ukGuest 3: John Davis, author of Extreme Pursuit.
Topic: Winning the race for the heart of your son.
Issues: Teen boys are driven by design to be extraordinary, to build and make an impact on their world. But left unchecked, this intensity can fuel destructive behavior. When our teens are slipping away, how do we get them back?
www.amazon.co.ukGuest 4: Logan Levkoff, author of Third Base Ain’t What It Used to Be.
Topic: What your kids are learning about sex today, and how to teach them to become sexually healthy adults.
Issues: Ending the hysteria about sex ed by clarifying the difference between the facts of puberty and the values every parent holds; sex is good, and sex education equals life education; when parents ignore kids’ questions about sexuality, those kids turn to their peers for information—and information from kids on the school bus can be dreadfully wrong.
Dear Mr. Dad: My son is approaching the age where we need to have “the talk.” My dad died when I was young, so my own introduction was nothing more than what I could find in books or from friends. I want to give him some guidance but I feel totally confused and embarrassed. What’s your advice?
A: You didn’t mention your son’s age, but if you’re like most parents, you’ve drastically underestimated the age at which “the talk” is appropriate. Because children are bombarded by sexual images from a very young age, parents need to control the message, which means you have to bring up the subject first. Otherwise, kids will do exactly what you did: turn to books, friends, and something you didn’t have when you were growing up: the Internet, which is great in many situations, but is also the biggest source of unreliable information in the world.
Under the best of circumstances, talking to a child about sex can make you—and your son—feel awkward and self-conscious. So how do you bring it up?
Actually, “how” is a good place to start since it’s just as important as “what.” If you make your discussion too clinical, dismiss it with jokes, mock, lecture him, or come across as embarrassed, disgusted, or negative, you’ll be sending your son two extremely dangerous messages: First, that you think sex is dirty, wrong, or insignificant. Second, that he can’t come to you to talk about serious issues.
Before you can start a discussion about sex, you need to find out what your child already knows, which means asking questions and listening carefully. You can then tailor your message. Sometimes, having a visual aid helps.
For preschoolers and kindergarteners, you could point out a pregnant woman and ask the child if he knows how the baby got in there. A basic discussion of the differences between male and female anatomy is important.
For early grade schoolers (say, up to seven or eight) point out a kid a few years older who has started puberty and ask your child if he understands the changes that come with adolescence. Now is when you might talk about the physical signs of sexual arousal and what actually happens during sex. That can be scary for some kids, so be sure to emphasize that all of this is completely natural and normal.
For tweens, you might use a typical TV or movie scene: Boy meets girl. They talk, they laugh. Then, cut to the next morning with the two of them in bed. Does your child understand what happened during the commercials? In addition to the physical part of sex, it’s important that your child understands the emotional component too—and the significant repercussions. Talk about pregnancy and the importance of protection. Talk about sexually transmitted diseases and steps that can help cut the risk of contracting something frightening and potentially deadly. You might also discuss things like, gulp, masturbation and oral sex. This isn’t going to be easy, but research shows that around 70 percent of tweens and teens think that oral sex is not “real” sex and isn’t that big a deal anyway. They’re wrong.
We’ll delve deeper into “the talk” in future columns, but don’t wait for me. Get these discussions going now—you’ll need to have more than one. It may make you uncomfortable, but kids who talk with their parents about sex are far more likely to be responsible, practice safe(r) sex, and have an easier time understanding and coping with the changes they’re undergoing.
I’m a single dad and my daughter is 11. I know I’m going to have some kind of discussion with her about puberty, but I don’t have a clue where to begin. I also don’t know what and how much I should say to my daughter about her body and about sexual feelings she is going to start to experience. Help!
Congratulations! You’re about to deal with something that most dads spend a lot of time worrying about. Luckily, though, it really isn’t all that bad.
Whether you’re a custodial dad or you share custody, it’s reasonably safe to assume that your ex will be having some discussions about puberty and menstruation with your daughter. But sometimes things don’t work out exactly the way you planned. Even if they do, it’s a good idea for you to prepare yourself to deal with these issues anyway. Women’s bodies have always been something of a mystery to most men and it’s perfectly normal to be confused, embarrassed, or even somewhat put off by your daughter’s physical changes.