Signs of Puberty in Preteen Girls

Tween girl doing her hair in the bathroom mirror
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At some point during the tween years, a girl will begin to experience the stages of puberty. Knowing what to look for can ease your mind, and help your tween through these enormous physical and emotional changes. While some of the signs of puberty may take a while to develop, others may appear as if they happened overnight.


There are many signs of puberty in girls. Keep in mind that these stages may appear gradually and it may take three to four years for your child to cycle through all the phases of puberty. In general, boys will go through puberty at some point between the ages of 9 and 14.

Girls may begin puberty between the ages of 8 and 12.

Share these signs with your tween daughter so she knows what to expect. Also, be sure you explain how she might handle her first period if you're not around to help, such as when she's at school or away from home.

Physical Changes

  • Growth spurts take place. For a year or two, your daughter may be taller than boys in her class.
  • Body shape changes occur as body fat accumulates around the hips and thighs, giving girls a curvier shape.
  • Breast development begins.
  • Body odor and skin breakouts start to happen due to increased oil gland production.
  • Hair growth in the underarm area, on the legs, and in the pubic area is noticeable.
  • Menstruation begins, typically around the age of 12.

Emotional Changes

  • Anxiety and/or excitement about the changes she is going through
  • Concerns over increased responsibility, fitting in socially and separating from her parents
  • Mood swings punctuated with bouts of anger, sadness, and other emotional fluctuations
  • Romantic feelings and interest

Reactions to Puberty

How a girl may react to the changes she experiences will vary from girl to girl. Some may be excited about puberty and look forward to becoming a young woman. Others may wish that things didn't change and that they didn't have to deal with growth spurts, bras, and monthly periods.

Be sure to support your child through these changes and avoid making too much of a big deal of puberty.

Also, remind your tween that puberty is a normal part of growing up and that everyone, including you, has been through it or will go through it one day.

Quick Tips for Parents

Going through puberty can be a tumultuous time for your daughter. For this reason, it's important to arm yourself with some effective ways to handle this important transition period. Here are some things you can do to be supportive and make the process as smooth as possible.

  • Be open to questions: Your daughter may come to you with questions as she experiences the changes of puberty. Be prepared with answers so you are not caught off guard.
  • Talk to your daughter: Some parents prefer to avoid talking about puberty and sex, leaving it up to her teachers and peers. It's important that she knows that she can come to you, too. Often it is up to you to start the conversation.
  • Be aware of the changes: It is very easy in our busy lives to become accustomed to people we are around every day. Take a few moments every now and then to really look at your daughter and note any changes in her body or attitude. The signs may be right there and you may notice them before she does.
  • Give her space: You want to be there for your little girl and that's great! There are also times when your daughter will just want to be alone. If it's not the right time to talk, don't push it and look for another opportunity.
  • Pay attention to body image issues: This is especially important for girls because there are stereotypes of what a woman should look like. As false as that sentiment is, young girls pay attention to it. Striving for the perfect body, especially while it's going through the changes of puberty, can lead to bigger problems like eating disorders.

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.