A Mighty Girl's top picks of books for tween and teen girls about puberty, sexuality, and their changing bodies.
You knew it would happen one of these days: your daughter is a tween. Maybe you just realized that she’s looking eye-to-eye with you, or perhaps you’re seeing breast budding or other early signs of puberty. Or, your daughter is a teen, and while she thinks she knows everything about her changing body, you want to make sure that she has accurate information and good resources to consult.
Fortunately, in this post, we have many great books to recommend for both tweens and teens — in addition to numerous helpful resources for parents themselves. If your Mighty Girl is a bit younger, check out our previous post on Body Smart, Body Safe: Talking with Younger Girls about their Bodies for resources for preschoolers and younger elementary students. You can also learn about our recommendations on menstruation-related resources in our post Teaching Your Mighty Girl About Her Menstrual Cycle.
Physical and Emotional Changes in Puberty
This, of course, is the main thing your daughter needs to know: how her body is changing, what to expect, and, of course, that what she’s experiencing is normal. All of the books below will do a great job of answering her (and your!) questions, whether she looks at them on her own or you read them together.
The original Care and Keeping of You has seen millions of girls through puberty, and now it's been updated and divided to apply to even more girls! This new first volume focuses on physical questions (everything from hygiene to development to selecting the right bra), but principally addresses the concerns of tweens. Once she feels comfortable with the information in this book, she'll be ready to move on to the The Care & Keeping of You 2, which adds key items like a description and illustration of tampon use and further discussion of how your social world changes as you continue to mature.
Once kids hit their tweens, emotions start to become more complicated: not only are there more shades of emotion to experience, but rapidly changing bodies and minds also lead to erratic and sometimes upsetting moods! This book from the American Girl Library focuses exclusively on the new emotional intensity many tweens are experiencing. Tweens will learn that their feelings are normal and how to reach out to loved ones for help when they’re struggling, as well as getting a reminder that it’s still important to express emotion appropriately. Pair it with The Feelings Book Journal to give her a hands-on way to explore her new emotional life.
The light, conversational approach in this book showcases the author's experience as both a life coach and older sister. This recent release discusses issues like body development, choosing bras and menstrual products, and even common experiences like getting glasses or braces. "Myth Buster" sidebars tackle some of the common misconceptions girls may hear about puberty and development, directly countering misinformation so parents can be confident their daughters know the facts. Arnold's accompanying illustrations feature vivid colors and a diverse group of girls, making this a very accessible, friendly volume.
Lynda Madaras has brought her years of experience teaching puberty and health education to her writing. With a friendly and accessible tone, Ready, Set, Grow! answers questions about a tween's developing body, talking about breast development, height and weight spurts, and hygiene issues from body odor to shaving. It's ideal for parents who wish to begin their discussions without tackling sexuality and dating, since it omits detailed discussion of sex, STIs, and birth control. For older girl who need more detail, her other volume, >The "What's Happening to My Body" Book for Girls, includes these issues and is suiable for ages 12 and up.
Another companion to the Care and Keeping of You books, this volume focuses on common questions that the editors at American Girl receive about topics ranging from hygiene to body basics to moods and feelings. The accessible Q&A format will appeal to many tweens, but parents will particularly appreciate the final section, which encourages tweens to keep in touch with the adults in their lives and provides tips to help tweens start key conversations.
Bunk 9's Guide to Growing Up: Secrets, Tips, and Expert Advice on the Good, the Bad, and the Awkward
Bunk 9's Guide to Growing Up: Secrets, Tips, and Expert Advice on the Good, the Bad, and the Awkward
This puberty book takes an unusual tone by using the voices of nine fictionalized girls to pass on accurate, girl-friendly information about growing up! The girls of Bunk 9 are ready to answer all your questions about puberty -- from what changes you'll notice in your body to how to manage mood swings to details about health and hygience that every girl should know. The accessible framework and friendly voices make this a book girls will be eager to read, and the information is all pediatrician-approved!
This much beloved guide includes general information about growth and development, as well as specific period-related questions like what to do about menstrual cramps and how to use a tampon correctly. Girls who understand the basics of puberty but want more information will find this book accessible and reassuring, and it's also an excellent option for parents who want a book focusing strictly on anatomy and hygiene, without a discussion of sexuality and intercourse. Parents of younger tweens should also check out the first volume, The Care and Keeping of You 1, which covers similar information with slightly less detail for ages 8 to 12.
As you would expect from the American Medical Association, this book provides an excellent factual guide to the physical and emotional changes your daughter will be experiencing. Different chapters cover body development, including the importance of taking care of your body (through diet, exercise, and good grooming); the reproductive system; how hormones affect your feelings and how to handle these emotional changes; and how to maintain a positive self-image in a time where it seems your body changes week by week.
This is definitely not your mother's puberty book! HelloFlo founder Naama Bloom's mission is to create informed, empowered young women who are unafraid to ask questions and make the best choices for themselves and their bodies. In The Guide. Period, she's created a celebration of women's bodies and all the confusing, uncomfortable, silly, transformative, and powerful changes that occur during puberty. This full-color book features bright, diverse, approachable illustrations and infographics (on everything from how to insert a tampon to a timeline of body hair trends throughout history), doctor-vetted information, and personal testimonials from real girls and women.
With so many conflicting messages, myths, and other confusion around breast and breast development, most girls could use a little specific advice! Marisa Weiss, M.D., an oncologist and breast health specialist, and her teenage daughter, Isabel, created this book to answer questions on the minds of girls everywhere. Girls will learn when they may want or need a bra (and how to choose one), why their breasts are growing (or not growing!) the way they are, and how to ensure good breast health throughout their lives. This practical guide to breast care is full of good advice based on up-to-date research, plus important discussions about the feelings she may have about her changing body.
As with the author's other book, Ready, Set, Grow, this book takes a light, funny, and friendly tone while answering questions about developing bodies, including breast development, menstruation, and grooming issues like skin care, shaving and body odor. However, What's Happening to My Body goes deeper into common issues of concern for teens, tackling eating disorders, sexually transmitted diseases (including AIDS), and romantic and sexual feelings. With detailed illustrations and real-life stories throughout, this is an essential puberty education and health book for girls.
Any of these books will provide a good grounding for you and your daughter about the general changes that puberty is going to bring. Chances are good, though, that there’s one puberty topic that is on every girl’s mind: her period.
For a girl going through puberty, her cycle can seem strange, mysterious, and a bit scary. Menstruation is such a taboo topic in most cultures that many girls — and parents — will feel even more uncomfortable discussing it than general sexual issues. However, there are books that focus exclusively on menstruation that will help your daughter understand that her period is no more mysterious than getting taller.
For more menstruation-related recommendations beyond those highlighted here, check out our post on Teaching Your Mighty Girl About Her Menstrual Cycle.
Older girls may be getting used to their menstrual cycle, but that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from further information. Cycle Savvy goes into much more detail about female reproductive anatomy, general gynecological health, and physical and emotional changes during the menstrual cycle. Author Toni Weschler also advocates charting your cycle, not just so that a girl knows when to expect her next period, but also so that she is in tune with her fertility and reproductive health, and therefore more alert to changes that could signal a health issue. After reading this book, girls will be confident that they understand just how their menstrual cycle works.
Understanding Your (Nearly Adult) Daughter
Of course, the ultimate goal of every parent as their child nears adulthood is to stay in contact: to find the right balance between space to grow and staying emotionally close. It’s a tricky maneuver, but there are ways to foster your understanding of your daughter and to help her understand your own feelings.
Studies show that early puberty is becoming more common, with almost 10% of girls showing signs of early puberty before age 8. But "early bloomers" can face some big challenges: with the body of a 13-year-old but the brain of an 8-year-old, it can be hard to understand how peoples' responses and attitudes towards you are changing. Louise Greenspan and Julianna Deardorff are experts in early puberty in girls, and in this book, they provide a detailed framework for guiding girls through early puberty, including what to do if and when she receives unwanted sexual attention. The result is a reassuring and empowering guide that will help parents feel confident in guiding their daughters through this transition.
This bestselling guided journal helps moms and daughters establish fun, thought-provoking ways of communicating with each other! Meredith and Sophie Jacobs started sharing a journal when Sophie was nine, and they have applied their experiences to create this fun resource to help other mother-daughter pairs. With its thoughtful writing prompts and intergenerational advice woven throughout, this journal helps promote discussions about friends, school, crushes, and many of the other joys and difficulties faced growing up. The same authors have also created two follow-up volumes, Just Between Us: Sisters and Just Between Us: Grandmother and Granddaughter.
Even as more parents become heavily involved in their teenagers' lives, few of them really know what their daughters are up to sexually – and how they feel about it. In Girls & Sex, Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, draws on interviews with 70 girls and conversations with psychologists, academics, and other experts, to discuss the sexual lives of girls. From sexual myths propagated by porn, to the "perfect slut" and why many girls disdain virginity, to hookup culture and its relationship to sexual assault, Orenstein takes a hard look at how the subtext of American life and culture influence girls' attitudes and behavior.
Parents who liked Debra Haffner's approach in From Diapers to Dating> in our blog about body talk for younger girls will love this volume about tweens and teens. As in her first book, Haffner encourages parents to have ongoing discussions with their kids, and emphasizes providing accurate information; at the same time, she shows how parents can communicate their family's values about sex, relationships, and confidence. From guiding tweens through puberty to figuring out what to do when your college students wants to bring a new partner home for a visit, this book provides plenty of suggestions for positive discussions with your kids.
With sex education today often leaving young adults ill-equipped to make safe decisions, they often turn to peers, the Internet, and the media, where they receive problematic messages about sex: boys are studs, girls are sluts; real sex should be like porn; hookups are better than relationships. In this book, sexuality educator Al Vernacchio offers a progressive and realistic approach that challenges traditional teaching models and instead embraces 21st century realities by promoting healthy sexuality, values, and body image in young people. Filled with real-life examples from the classroom, exercises and quizzes, and a wealth of sample discussions and crucial information, For Goodness Sex offers the tools and insights adults need to talk young people and help them develop healthy values and safe habits.
If you want to start discussion with your daughter about sexuality, health, or relationships, you may wonder what to say — in which case, this book is the one for you! Sections are devoted to a variety of issues that are of concern to both girls and moms, from menstruation to body image to dating; each provides information for both mom and daughter, as well as prompts to get conversations started. The accessible Q&A format means that even parents who feel like they don't know enough to have these discussions can go forward confidently, and the Table Talk sections provide helpful prompts. It's a great way to get talking with your Mighty Girl.
Kids are increasingly immersed in highly sexualized content — and that gives them a broad and often distorted depiction of what is acceptable in sexuality and relationships. Cindy Pierce, a sex educator and comic storyteller, show parents how they can talk about sexuality, pornography, and relationships with kids, establishing themselves as reliable, accessible sources of information when kids (accidentally or on purpose) see material that they find upsetting or confusing. The overall tone is one of optimism and confidence: parents can discuss these issues with their children, and those discussions can — and do — make a difference.
Although teens may seem like they don't want your input, the truth is that your opinion — and advice — matters more to them than you know. Rush, a certified nurse-midwife who specializes in treating teens, realized over the course of her career that teenage girls are often left to form a sexual identity without adult guidance. As well, she found that girls were often criticized for normal adolescent behavior. Rush tackles the hard topics — pregnancy, substance abuse, and eating disorders — but also the issues facing almost all parents — battles with authority figures, lack of emotional support, and under-achievement — with grace, laughter, and confidence that you and your daughter can get through this difficult time.
This strange blend of little girl and grown woman sitting across the table from you isn’t far from adulthood, and soon the resources she’ll be looking for will have to do with career selection and independent living. When that day comes, and she is truly on her own, you’ll be glad you were a comforting part of her adolescent experience.
Tips for Parents about Tweens, Teens, and Puberty
- Make sure your daughter knows that weight gain and increased curves (especially right before a growth spurt) are part of developing a woman’s body. Otherwise, she could misinterpret her natural weight gain as unhealthy.
- Recognize that your daughter is likely to be uncomfortable with her rapidly changing body, and feeling particularly unsure of herself; be sensitive about any comments relating to her body.
- If your daughter has shown any of the early signs of puberty (growth spurt, breast budding, and/or appearance of body hair) make sure that she has menstrual pads with her wherever she goes, especially if she will be away from home overnight.
- For male friends and family members: don’t stop showing physical affection just because she is starting to mature. Many girls are very hurt when the men in their lives become inexplicably distant after they enter puberty.
- Whatever your family’s values about sex before marriage are, make sure that your daughter has a clear understanding about birth control and protection from sexually transmitted infections.
Additional Recommended Resources
- If your child is in preschool or early elementary school, check out our blog Body Smart, Body Safe: Talking with Younger Girls about their Bodies for resources to lay the groundwork for puberty discussions.
- For more books on puberty topics, as well as lots of other topics of concern to girls, check out our new Guides for Girls section.
- For books for all ages to help foster positive body image, please see our blog Celebrating Every Body: 20 Body Image Positive Books for Girls.
- For books to help you talk to your tween or teen about the emotions of romantic love, see our post about Valentine's Day Books for Tweens and Teens.