How does a boy become a girl?
Girls in puberty
Suddenly everything is different
Apparently it came all of a sudden, as if approached. From one day to the next, the balanced, happy sunshine turned into a real bitch. When she was still in a good mood, the next moment she could “hang under the covers” angrily. A tender "You are the dearest mommy in the world" can be followed by a violent outburst minutes later: "Man mom, do you always have to annoy me?" Anger and tenderness, joy and sadness, lust and frustration, the child seems to experience the whole range of human emotions at a turbo-pace, as a parent you can no longer keep up.
But other things too are suddenly different. Pictures of singers and series stars mix between the horse posters on the walls. In the afternoon the child talks forever on the phone with friends, in the evening she recently locks herself in the bathroom. And their taste in clothes has changed too. Recently she was satisfied with what mother brought her, but now she insists on choosing herself in very specific shops. Even movement and language change. Some girls appear temporarily awkward, as if they don't know what to do with their stretched limbs and the first signs of feminine form. Others are already imitating the behavior of adult women. It can come across as weird, as well as the “cool” idioms, giggles and silly fuss when several girls are together. Between the teenage behavior, there are repeated relapses into the childlike, a circumstance that particularly confuses parents. Suddenly she digs out her dolls when no one is watching, or delves into knight games with her younger sibling.
The body changes
Most mothers and fathers experience their daughter's puberty as stressful and often feel overwhelmed. You never know where you are with her, she questions new limits every day. It often hits the mothers particularly hard, who, who are still closest confidants, suddenly experience sharp demarcation through their daughter. In this difficult situation, it can help to realize what exactly is happening.
First of all, there is the physical level. The process of sexual maturation begins around the age of nine. The breasts are slowly becoming visible, the hips become rounder, the first hairs sprout under the armpits and in the pubic area. All of this is subject to a fine control process that depends, among other things, on body weight. Only at around 40 kilograms do the estrogens (female hormones) receive the command to become more active. Puberty therefore begins very differently in each child. The aim of all hormonal activities is sexual maturity, i.e. the girl's ability to conceive. Already on the physical plane this means the monstrous. A body that was just there before, no longer perceived, but the source of all vitality, is suddenly subject to uncontrollable laws. The rule comes and goes, causing tension, sometimes pain, definitely restrictions. When the period begins, the cosmos of female life perspectives expands at the same time. Conception, pregnancy, childbirth and a life as a mother, these are the prospects that slide into the consciousness of young girls, whether they like it or not.
Traces in the soul
No wonder this dramatic change is reflected in the souls of the girls. It goes back and forth between the longing for a lost childhood and the lure of adult life. That is why they are both in one - dear girls and unruly bitches. The tempo and vehemence of the change bear witness to the vehemence with which the inner drama unfolds. There are two main reasons why it seems more turbulent and is often felt worse than with boys.
The first: Girls are allowed to be soulful by nature and to show that too. In this regard, we are still - unconsciously - educating according to old patterns. From an early age, boys are encouraged to control their emotions. Not necessarily through martial sayings - “an Indian knows no pain” - but by ignoring their feelings. Girls, on the other hand, are encouraged to express their grief, but also to express joy or tenderness. You are allowed to stand by your own feelings and that is a strength. Even during puberty, the internal state can go directly outside.
There are hardly any attractive role models
The second reason: It is very difficult for girls today to develop their own female identity. Role models and roles are contradictory and prove to be unattractive, at least in the long term. There is a claim to formal equality, more and more women are successfully advancing into the domains of men. Party chairmen, racing drivers, foreign correspondents, pilots - young girls could orientate themselves on these women. On closer inspection, however, the catch becomes clear: Many of these “super women” do not have their own families. Even today, with children, they have even fewer chances of getting really attractive jobs. In their real environment, teenagers mostly experience mothers who either suffer from a lack of recognition as housewives or who struggle with the balancing act between work and family. None of the roles offered is basically a role model that one would like to emulate with enthusiasm. Even if thirteen or fourteen year old girls cannot always clearly state this, they surely suspect it. They subconsciously know that beneath the surface (and often openly) the female gender is still considered the weak. It is not uncommon for them to experience it firsthand. Many girls have to deal with some form of sexual assault. They also recognize how at risk they are from the movement restrictions that anxious parents impose on them. No wonder that the not so glamorous prospects for a woman's life in puberty create particular tensions. They come to light in angry, tearful or otherwise dramatic appearances.
The body cult dominates in the media
The media promise relief from the orientation emergency. The books for girls that are about first love cannot be overlooked. Numerous magazines are tailored to female teenagers and these papers in turn maintain well-frequented Internet sites. Certain television series serve young audiences and pop music keeps producing new stars who temporarily populate the idol sky. The role models that the media offer are one-sided to the point of dreariness. They present perfectly styled women with model figures, whose beauty is their most important quality.
Some girls react to the overestimation of the outside with consistent rejection and try the boyish opposite in appearance and behavior. They get on better with boys than with members of their own gender, and would have preferred to be a boy anyway. A path that must lead to the dead end of an identity crisis. Those who practice the female role that has been demonstrated everywhere do not fare any better, however. Overrating the outside world has fatal consequences. On the one hand, it leads to all other qualities and abilities of the girls being devalued. The joy of sport, for example, or good school performance no longer seem so important. On the other hand, it means that for some girls the recognition of their perfectly shaped bodies becomes a meaning in life. With extreme means they try to correspond to the ideal. That is why body addictions like bulimia and anorexia increase dramatically in pubescent girls.
Your daughter needs guidance
In order to be able to safely cross the sometimes rough seas of puberty, a young girl needs the support of her parents. Mother and father are still the most important people in his life and nothing is more important than orientation. That is why you must not say goodbye to your child's life right now. You are needed as a guarantee for stability in a fluctuating world. Stay clear and predictable. Express your opinion, whether it is about school performance, tobacco and alcohol, going out or clothing and, if necessary, enforce it. Not that you should be fiddling with a crowbar. Of course, you need to talk to your daughter, argue, and let yours convince you if they seem valid to you. However, if something goes completely against the grain, stick to your line.
For example when it comes to clothes. In almost every family the tiresome brand discussion comes up on the table, and most parents do not see the need to shell out a lot of euros for a certain make. This is how it could go: father and mother set a budget for clothing. If that is exceeded because the brand was more expensive than the equivalent no-name product, the daughter has to add some pocket money. Some young girls also tend to wear extremely sexualized clothing and thus not only exceed the limits of good taste. Here, too, parents are allowed to intervene, express their opinion, and possibly forbid an outfit. Don't be afraid to argue and take the risk of an argument. Even if she will never admit it, your daughter will be grateful to you often enough. Maybe she doesn't feel comfortable in the super-skimpy top, but she can't resist the pressure of her clique. What a relief when she can report angrily that she would have liked to want it herself, but her strict mother ...
This is often the case with other topics as well. Your teen adapts to the group because he is looking for orientation, but is by no means always happy with it. A decision by mother or father will then help out of a mess, even if there is an apparent rebellion against it.
So stay in touch
Of course, all of this would be far less stressful if pubescent daughters didn't bring up new topics almost every day and force their parents to comment. The following tips will help you deal with the situation constructively:
- Do you remember your own puberty. This helps you stay calm and improves your sense of humor.
- Listen carefully when your daughter says something and take her feelings seriously. This will make it easier for her to take you too seriously and to be open to your arguments.
- Avoid accusations and generalizations. If something bothers you, choose the first-person form: Instead of: “You haven't tidied your room again! You always leave everything behind! " dear "I'm disappointed that your room is still not tidy, even though you promised me." While the first version is likely to cause your girl to be offended or petulant, the second is pretty sure to get your message across.
- Whenever the opportunity presents, praise your daughter and show her that you are proud of her.
- You don't have to be able to give the right answers every time. If you get stuck, take a break. Just say calmly, "I have to think about this first." Or: "I want to talk to your father first."
- Do not try to adapt to the style of the teenagers. Parents who wear their children's clothes at forty and adopt their language are secretly ridiculed. They are not role models because they point no direction. In addition, they take away the youngsters the chance to set themselves apart and develop something of their own.
- Be sure to keep talking to your daughter. Get in touch again even if it really bangs. Share your own feelings and thoughts about the conflict. That creates trust.
Welcome to the club! The menstruation
Trust is especially important when it comes to the topic that dominates puberty: sexuality. An alarming number of girls do not really know what to do, despite education at school. The mothers are particularly in demand here. Talk to your daughter about friendship and love, lust and frustration, sex and contraception. It is best to do it before the topic is "on". This requires a sure instinct, because for a twelve-year-old who is already on her period, for example, contraception is not yet an issue. If your teen is embarrassed about a topic, you will notice it very quickly and be accordingly cautious. It is particularly important to mothers not to ignore the topic of menstruation. Most girls still experience the “first time” as a shock and dealing with their periods as a problem. Often it is still irregular and therefore unpredictable. That leads to all sorts of embarrassments. Sometimes it also causes pain and nausea. The younger the girl is, the harder it is for him to come to terms with the rule. So make it as easy as possible for him. Help him to appreciate his feminine characteristics by celebrating the "first time" together. Go for an ice cream with your daughter or go to the cinema, maybe invite your godmother, grandma or older cousins and welcome them to the adult women's club.
- Esther Schoonbrood, Barbara Dobrick (2011): Explain love to me! Feelings, body, sex. What women should talk to girls about. Goldmann publishing house
- Peer Wüschner (2010): Borderline experience of puberty. New survival training for parents, Eichborn Verlag
- Federal Center for Health Education (Ed.): Exciting years. Jules' diary. For girls aged 10 to 15, it's free here
More articles by the author here in our family handbook
Ingrid Leifgen is a freelance journalist and author with a focus on family and upbringing. She has three children.
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