Navigating Tween Development an Self-Image Issues

How to handle this frequent source of anxiety

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Mother with teenage girl (14-15) sitting on sofa
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Breast development can be a major source of anxiety among tween girls. Breast size can make a girl feel self-conscious and awkward whether she's started to develop before her friends, or if she hasn't begun to develop, but all of her friends have. To make matters worse, her classmates may take to teasing her about her body, adding fuel to the fire.

A girl's breasts generally begin "budding" between the ages of 8 and 11.

During times like these, girls  often try to conceal their breasts underneath baggy clothes, or they may try to make their breasts appear larger, but that can also encourage taunting and teasing.

Talking to Your Daughter

There are several things you can do to help your daughter through this change. For starters, talk to her about why her body is changing, and how this phase of development is normal for girls her age. Whether your daughter feels self-conscious about her breasts being too big or too small, assure her that all of her girlfriends will also go through these changes too, just at different rates.

If your daughter is more physically developed than other girls her age, it might be a good idea to have her fitted for a bra. Many department stores can fit you for free, and it's also a good way to make sure that your daughter is wearing a bra that's right for her. If she's too embarrassed to be fitted, you may want to purchase several bras in different sizes in order to find the size that's best for her.

Helping Your Daughter Cope

Also, take the time to point out that any girls who are teasing her are doing it to either make themselves look "cool" in front of their friends, or because they are jealous that they haven't begun to develop. Boys who tease her may be doing so to get her attention, or to propel themselves to the top of the social ladder.

Arm your daughter with coping techniques so that if the teasing begins, she'll be able to manage it. For example, teach her to ignore the comments her classmates make because if she doesn't react, they'll be less likely to continue to tease her. Another possible deterrent to teasing is to make a joke out of it. When someone comments on how her breasts have begun (or not begun) to develop, she could remark, "No kidding, I had no idea, thanks for the tip."

If the teasing takes an ugly turn or doesn't stop, it might be time to contact your child's teacher or guidance counselor to ask for help. As tweens begin to change physically it's important for them to understand that your support and love is still there for them. Be sure you take the time to let your daughter know that you're proud of her and her accomplishments, and that you're excited to see her change and grow into a responsible teen.

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