Parents having the birds and the bees talk too late, putting young girls at risk

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A new study shows you might be talking about the birds and the bees a little too late, and as a result young girls aren't prepared for puberty.

"So we know girls are going through puberty earlier these days. In fact, as early as 7 or 8 years old. And often times families are not prepared for the discussion for the discussion of puberty to happen at that age," Riley Hospital for Children, Pediatric Gynecologist, Dr. Samantha Vilano said.

This is especially true for minority girls, who are starting puberty earlier than other girls. A study from the Journal of Adolescent Health looked at more than 17,000 girls ages 3 to 12. The survey showed 48.3% of black girls showed signs of physical development by age 8 compared to just 14.7% of white girls. Which could mean those talks are happening too late if parents wait until those teenage years.

"Use teachable moments as your children are growing up. So even when they're toddlers you want to use appropriate names for body parts. You want to talk about privacy. You want to talk about what's appropriate and not appropriate touching," Dr. Vilano said.

Dr. Vilano says this could have an impact on lower income areas because classes outside of school for young girls typically cost.

"I actually lead a session with the girlology company which provides age appropriate, accurate information regarding reproduction and sexual health and puberty to girls but it’s at a cost so girls from lower income backgrounds may not have access to those programs."

But this doesn't have to be a socioeconomic issue. Dr. Vilano says anyone is welcome to come to Riley Hospital for Children and talk to a pediatric gynecologist. But most importantly, don't be afraid to have those ongoing conversations at home.

"If you have a mom that's really willing and excited to talk with you about your body changes and prepare you for your teenage years then you're already winning and that wouldn't matter what background you're from."

Dr. Vilano says many parents think having the talk early will encourage sexual activity, but she says it actually helps your child to make better decisions if they find themselves in an unfamiliar situation.

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