Helping Your Adopted Daughter Through Puberty Without Shame

Every parent has to decide when to talk with their adopted daughter about the physical changes that take place during puberty. Adopted teenagers with a history of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) might have no experience with or knowledge of these types of conversations. Your daughter might feel ashamed or embarrassed about how her body and emotions change during puberty. Bringing up these topics early will help your adoptive daughter become comfortable with her body as she matures. You can normalize the experience of puberty for her and make sure she knows what to expect.

Havenwood Academy offers mental health treatment for vulnerable teens who struggle with mental health issues during adolescents or young adulthood.

Puberty and Self-Stigmatizing Behaviors in Teenage Girls

Teenage girls often internalize social stigmas. Puberty and the start of menstruation can cause a teen girl to feel betrayed by her body. If she does not know what to expect, she may feel afraid to ask you for help. Prepare your daughter for the onset of puberty by normalizing discussions about physical changes using sensitive and matter-of-fact language.

In addition, ensure your daughter knows that everybody develops at a different rate. Nothing is “wrong” with her body if she reaches puberty before or after her friends. You can help her avoid self-stigmatization by modeling healthy behaviors and body positivity.

Discuss How the Body Changes

Ensure your adopted daughter understands what to expect during the various stages of puberty. Discuss the fact that her body will change dramatically within a short period of time. You should walk her through what to expect from the following:

  • Breast development
  • Growth of pubic hair
  • Menarche: their first menstrual period

You can tell her about your own emotional and physical journey through puberty. Hearing your story may help your daughter better understand her own experiences. Reinforce the idea that she can come to you anytime about anything related to her health or well-being.

Menarche and Having “The Talk”

Your adopted daughter might not have any experience discussing sexual or physical health issues with adults. In addition, she might have no information about menarche or what to expect during her first period. The more she knows about what to expect, the less stress she will experience during the transition. For this reason, it’s best to have “The Talk” with her before her first period.

StatPearls Publishing reported that “Menarche typically occurs between the ages of 10 and 16.” Whenever possible, parents are encouraged to discuss topics like these before their daughter turns 10. Other body changes begin to occur within the same age range, including breast development and pubic hair growth. Have these discussions before changes become apparent to increase your child’s body positivity and self-confidence.

However, this age range is just a general guideline. If you notice physical changes associated with puberty happening at a faster rate with your child, you may want to discuss these topics sooner. When in doubt, reach out to a medical or mental health professional for advice on the best age to discuss puberty with your daughter.

Talking to Your Daughter About Puberty

If you plan to talk about puberty with your child, brush up on the facts before having the discussion. Researchers are constantly making discoveries, and what may have been “fact” when you were her age may be outdated information. Educate yourself about the various aspects of modern teenage health during puberty. Doing so ensures you are prepared to answer any questions your daughter might have about her body and its changes.

When talking to your child about puberty, try to do the following:

  • Use age-appropriate language to avoid confusion or miscommunication
  • Actively listen to her responses and answer any questions without judgment
  • Be straightforward but not crass, and use sensitive language that encourages body positivity
  • Provide her with resources she can use on her own and respect her privacy
  • Validate her feelings and normalize the idea of empowerment, bodily autonomy, and discussions about health

Some children aren’t as forthcoming with their thoughts and feelings about puberty and require space. Your child should have access to reliable and accurate in-person and online resources. “Concerns Girls Have About Puberty” by the American Academy of Pediatrics is an excellent source of information for parents and teenagers with easy-to-understand details on breast development, menstruation, and other changes girls experience in puberty.

What to Do When Things Are Difficult

Girls with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) or early childhood trauma (ECT) might have difficulty coping with puberty. You can help her by providing emotional and practical support. Your love and patience will help her learn to accept how her body changes over time.

Havenwood Academy offers treatment for adopted teen girls with mental health issues. We also educate parents on how to avoid re-traumatizing children who may have experienced childhood sexual trauma. How you approach these topics will determine your child’s ability to cope with everyday stressors she may encounter during puberty.

Puberty can be a difficult time. Hormonal and physical changes within the body can leave teenagers feeling isolated and confused. Adopted teenagers may not know what to expect from puberty or they may have learned information from unreliable sources that leave them uncertain about what to expect. You can help your teenage daughter understand puberty and transition smoothly from an adolescent to a young adult by being supportive, understanding, and informative. Use direct but sensitive language to inform them about body changes that directly impact their sense of self. Havenwood Academy helps teens and their families navigate mental health recovery. Learn more about our facility and programs by calling us today at (435) 586-2500.


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