Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Daughter Entering Puberty Needs Support

DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter is 10 years old, and she is starting the process of puberty. My daughter is extremely shy, and I am afraid that her classmates will make fun of her. How can I ensure her transition will be smooth and with minimal turbulence? -- Becoming a Butterfly, Brooklyn, N.Y.

DEAR BECOMING A BUTTERFLY: Many children are beginning puberty at your daughter's age. It can be difficult making the transition into a young lady from a little girl. It is also true that other children can sometimes be cruel when they notice changes in their friends.

There is no failsafe way to ensure a smooth transition into womanhood. You can support your daughter by talking to her about the changes in her body and teaching her how to take care of herself. Let your daughter know that she can ask you anything and you will do your best to answer.

Help her select loose-fitting clothing that will make her body changes less noticeable. Have her properly fitted for underwear. Talk to her pediatrician about other ways to support her. There is a wonderful book you can get for your daughter, called "'What's Happening to Me?' An Illustrated Guide to Puberty," by Peter Mayle.

DEAR HARRIETTE: While I was cleaning up my 14-year-old son's room, I came across his journal, and I learned that he has started smoking cigarettes. Reading another person's journal is something one should not do. However, my son lives in my house, and I have the right to know what is going on in his life. How should I address my son's newfound habit? -- Distressed Mom, New York City

DEAR DISTRESSED MOM: You absolutely must address the smoking, but you do not have to reveal that you read it in his journal. If your son is smoking cigarettes, it is likely that his clothing will sometimes smell of it. Take a cue from his clothing and tell him that you smell cigarettes on him.

Or just ask him directly when he started smoking cigarettes and why. Remind him of the harmful effects of cigarettes on his health. If there is anyone in your family or life who has gotten cancer after being a smoker, remind him. He needs to understand on a visceral level how dangerous smoking cigarettes is as well as how addictive it is. The ingredient nicotine is what creates the addiction. It is extremely hard to stop smoking once you develop a habit.

So, your job is to talk straight with him and let him know that you love him too much to allow him to make a choice that will shorten his life. Point him to this website for teens that has powerful images that show just what happens to lungs of smokers -- everything from cancer to emphysema: kidshealth.org/teen/drug_alcohol/tobacco/smoking.html.