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She may look far more 'grown up' than you did at her age, but inside she's still a child. Here's how to cope with puberty - a tricky stage in your daughter's life

Teenagers are getting younger

In the UK, the average girl starts menstruating at the age of 11 or 12, around 18 months earlier than their mums and two years earlier than their grannies. Nobody knows exactly why puberty is beginning earlier. For years it was put down to genetics and biology, but latest theories suggest it could be linked to body weight, diet and even stress.

Puberty is thought to be triggered by a hormone called leptin which is produced by fat tissue. This means that heavier girls with more fat in their diets will start puberty earlier. Some research suggests that a stressful home life could also make early puberty more likely. Even if you think your daughter's years off starting her periods, it's still better to tell her about it now - before one of her friends does.

Explain what will happen clearly and simply, assuring her there's nothing to be scared about. Make sure she understands that girls develop at different rates and there's nothing abnormal about being the 'first' or the 'last' to start their periods.

If you can't face a detailed discussion, there are plenty of other ways to give her the information she needs. Start by going to:

- Facts of life
- Parentline Plus
- The Family Planning Association

Top tip: If you think she'll be too embarrassed to talk about her periods, leave a book or leaflet lying in her bedroom 'by accident' so she can read it when she's alone.

- Next: Find out how your little girl's body is changing

More help and advice

- Are your children growing up too fast? 

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All pages in this article

  1. 1. Help! What's happening to my little girl?
  1. 2. Her body is changing

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