Not the usual leisure reading some would pick up but The New Puberty by Drs. Greenspan and Deardorff is a must read for anyone with young women in their lives. After hearing a fascinating interview with the authors on NPR’s Fresh Air, the book caught my eye while I was perusing the non-fiction section at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
The book is an easy-to-read combination of research, anecdote and how-to-guide. Greenspan and Deardorff investigate early development in girls today, and discuss the environmental, biological and socioeconomic factors that influence when puberty begins. And just when you’re feeling like all hope is lost, the authors give simple action items and advice on how to navigate this landscape. For example, in the chapter How To Manage Environmental Risks, they offer a list of ingredients in foods, beauty products and cleaning supplies to avoid. Even better, it is precise and not overwhelming.
For me, the most interesting part of the book came in chapter seven, Inside the Brain of a Developing Girl. The crux of it is clear when the authors write, “We’ve noticed that once parents understand the basics of brain development, they can better understand why their girls are having trouble making good choices, diffusing even the most emotional family situations.” Later in the chapter they go on to say, “And you, as a caring supervising adult who teaches and supports her along the way, will also impact her behavior. Never forget that you play a very important part, whether you are a parent, teacher, or medical professional, as your girl becomes increasingly independent…”
So there it is: understanding and influence. The more we understand, the more we can have compassion for our young women and ourselves as parents. More so, we know we can have positive influence on their lives – whether that is making informed decisions on foods and beauty products or remaining calm during heated teenage disputes.
The book really had me reflecting on my own experiences as a teenager, and as a soon-to-be-mommie of a little girl. It gave me perspective on how to help my girl and as a parent maneuver through the tricky transition into womanhood. And with the percent of girls going through puberty before the age of eight more than doubling over the last generation, no matter how young the girls in your life are, it is never too early to pick up this book.