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Are you terrified of your daughter's impending puberty? There's no doubt that it will rock your world, but being prepared will make things slightly easier (though perhaps no less dramatic).

"The days are long but the years are short," a fellow mother from my online due date club reminded everyone else in her signature. The saying helped me stay sane when my toddlers were ill and crying all night, and later when they turned into rambunctious and sometimes obnoxious preschoolers. I'm increasingly realizing just how much truth there is in that one little sentence now that my sweet firstborn is displaying the first signs of puberty — body odor, obvious hair growth on her legs, some pimples, and turning every word I say into an argument. Before we know it, she'll be off to college. But before that, we'll all have to survive the teenage years.

Puberty has a bad reputation. If you're a little afraid of how your child will change, physically but especially emotionally, you are not alone. Exactly what can you expect, when, and how do you deal?

Girl Puberty — When Does That Start?

Female puberty generally starts between the ages of 10 and 14. It can also come a little later for some, but don't be comforted by this if your daughter is currently 10 or younger. You may see the first signs of puberty when she's eight or nine, and in rare cases even younger. Like all the other developmental milestones that came before puberty, there isn't one magic time at which you can expect it. Girls enter puberty a little earlier than boys on average. Boys tend to start puberty between the ages of 10 and 12. 

The physical changes that come with female puberty are usually complete by age 16, though they can go on for longer and the mood swings and deep existential stuff that comes with adolescence can certainly be expected to stick around throughout the teen years and perhaps beyond.

Signs Of Puberty In Both Sexes

Both boys and girls grow taller, develop more body hair including pubic and armpit hair, start to sweat more, develop body odor, and experience skin changes including pimples. Puberty will change a child's voice too. Though this is going to be very noticeable in boys, it happens for girls as well. Besides becoming taller, you can also expect your child's body shape to change. While boys develop broader shoulders, girls will get wider hips. And breasts, but we'll get there in a second.

Developing more sexual feelings is normal, healthy and inevitable during puberty for both sexes. Hormones trigger puberty, and they also shake the child's emotional world — along with their parents'.

Parents are often worried about the sexual aspect of puberty — they fear the time their daughter announces she's in love or has a boyfriend, or shows an interest in sex. The combination of being vulnerable to peer pressure and the girl's developing sense of self is going to be at least as much of a challenge, however.

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