Zen Mama Wannabee Banner

What’s Happening to our Young Girls?

Are you the parent or grandparent of a young girl?  On second thought, are you the parent of a young CHILD (male OR female)?  If so, I hope you got a chance to read the New York Times Magazine article written by Elizabeth Weil about what is happening to many of our young girls today.

The Incredible Shrinking Childhood – How early is too early for puberty?

Why does this affect you?  Hopefully this is not something your family is experiencing first hand.  If it is, you might find the information and research discussed in the article useful.  If nothing else, you might see that your daughter is neither alone nor abnormal – early puberty is happening more and more frequently.  And that is how it starts to affect ALL of us – and why we all need to be asking ourselves WHY?

Two factors contributing to this cause me great concern:  body mass index and exposure to environmental chemicals.  We see the numbers in the news all the time; there is much talk about the growing rate of childhood obesity and the damage it causes, yet are we really listening?  For the first time in our country’s history, this new generation of children has a life expectancy of LESS than the current one.  (And we think we as a society are making progress??) The numbers of childhood cases of diabetes, high blood pressure, yes even heart disease are rapidly increasing and now you can add early puberty to the list.

But weight alone does not determine early puberty; it may be one of the factors some of the times, but not always – unfortunately it is not as simple as that.  As Ms. Weil points out, doctors and researchers have also noticed that “exposure to some environmental chemicals can cause bodies to mature faster.”  What types of chemicals are we talking about here?  Flame retardant PBB (think kids’ pajamas as just one of the many uses) and BPA (used to make plastics) are two common chemicals that are all around us on a daily basis.  Canada became the first country to declare BPA a “toxic substance” but there is plenty to be found here in the US. Exposure to these chemicals can cause (among other scary things) estrogen to be mimicked in a girl’s body.

Well, this is certainly not good, but I have a son, you might say.  How does this directly affect me or him? These environmental chemicals which are all around us (and can be found in our water bottles, disposable dishes, household appliances, our clothing, our soil, and yes even some of our food) are not just going into girls’ systems – all of us (BOYS and girls) are being exposed.  Think of how these chemicals and hormones play havoc on all of us. (If you’re not sure, just google it and read some of the latest research results on the health hazards:  it is frightening!)

Lastly, face it:  if young girls are sprouting breasts, at some point a boy is going to notice.  Does he know to not tease, or join in the teasing? Does he understand that just because a girl’s body might be changing, that doesn’t mean she is ready or interested in sexual exploration. That just because she may LOOK like a teen, she shouldn’t be pressured into acting like one.

Just as girls need guidance in valuing and respecting their bodies, boys need this too.  But does this need to be taught (gulp) and by us (double gulp)?  This Zen Mama Wannabe would argue yes – because otherwise you are relying on what the media and their peers feed them (which is terrifying on many levels).  One of the greatest gifts we could give society is to teach our boys to honor, value and respect girls and their bodies, in all the various shapes and sizes. (NO means NO being included in this).  But instead we expect them to just understand this innately, not realizing the mixed messages they are absorbing all around them.

Early puberty and all that it represents affects all of us.  There are things we can do (baby steps to take) to make a difference.  But are we concerned enough to try?

* * *

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply


Archives