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Dealing with Early Puberty

What to know if you're the first of your friends to start puberty.

Tricky Time continued...

Vanessa Topp, an Atlanta teen, remembers how embarrassing those body changes were. She got her period, and breasts, when she was 10 -- two years before all her friends.

Topp looked much older than she was -- and boys noticed.

"I remember one time we were at a dinner party at my parents' friends' house. Their son was 17, and I had just turned 12. He was going out with a bunch of his friends and he asked his mom if he could take me along because he thought I was cute," she says. "I felt really awkward in those situations." 

Boys are just one part of the awkwardness of puberty. You also have to deal with periods -- and with a body that's changing in lots of ways.

Getting Ready for Puberty

If you're just starting puberty, here's how to get ready for all those changes that are going to happen to your body.

  • Talk to an adult. Tell a trusted adult -- such as your mom, an aunt, or your school nurse -- aboutwhat's bothering you. Your friends -- not so much. They might mean well, but you really want someone who knows more and has been there, done that.
  • Become a period expert. Ask your mom to show you how to use a tampon and/or pad. Practice a few times, so you'll know what to expect. Always keep a few pads or tampons at home and in your locker at school, just in case your period surprises you.
  • Go bra shopping. As your breasts grow, you'll need some support, especially if you play sports. Shop for your first bra with your mom or another woman. Make sure it's the right size --  a woman who works in a store's bra department can help with that.
  • Talk to your doctor. You don't have to see a gynecologist yet, but you should visit a doctor you can talk to about your changing body. If you've been seeing a male doctor and you'd feel more comfortable talking about periods and other girl stuff with a woman, ask your parents if you can switch doctors.
  • Be choosy about your friends. It can be tempting to hang out with an older crowd, but that's not always best for you. Stick with people your own age. And if an older guy, or a man, pays a lot of attention to you, wants to takes you places where adults go, or buys you expensive things, you need to tell an adult so that you stay safe, even if you think he's totally harmless. "You do need to have some suspicions," Murray says.
  • Think positive. Looking different than your friends can be hard on your self-esteem. Instead of seeing your changing body as a bad thing, embrace your new curves. When you look in the mirror, learn to love the new you. "Celebrate who you are and be positive and confidant in your own image," Tirone says.

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