Explaining Puberty Earlier

New research shows that girls are reaching puberty as young as 8 years old. CBS This Morning Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports on how parents can prepare their daughters earlier for the emotional and physical changes that come with menstruation.

Scientists say that the age of onset of menstruation has steadily decreased in this century from age 14 to, currently, an average age of 12 1/2. Studies indicate that 62 percent of African American girls and 35 percent of Caucasian girls are under age 12 when they get their periods.

When your daughter gets her period, she should know it's normal and natural so that she isn't frightened. She should be told about PMS, cramps, and having babies. If these things aren't explained to her by an adult, she may get the wrong information from other kids.

If a child asks whether menstruation means she can have a baby, don't overreact - be honest and tell her it means her body is capable of having children, but enforce that the rest of her isn't ready yet because she's still too young.

Children this age may not be emotionally ready for the changes their bodies are going through. Experts in the field of child development believe sex education needs to start earlier than it used to, and that parents should not wait for puberty to explain the birds and the bees.

Experts suggest parents have conversations throughout childhood using "teachable moments" - for example, teaching the child the names of body parts as she becomes curious. Parents can consult their pediatrician about how to handle this.

Other options include books on puberty written just for children, or videos. Playtex Tampons is selling a video for girls and their parents that answers common questions about menstruation.

Reported By Dr. Emily Senay