What is the right age to start drinking and taking drugs?

What is the right age to start drinking and taking drugs?

Aha, a trick question! There is no ‘right age’. The most important thing is to know a lot more about both before you decide what the right thing is for you. Alcohol and drugs are not good for the teenage brain.

Lots of teenagers don’t drink. In some friendship groups nobody or hardly anybody ever drinks. In other groups almost everybody does, a lot.

Before you have a drink, ask yourself why you want it. Here are some common reasons – not necessarily good ones – teens give for drinking: they think it will make them more grown up; to help them relax; because they’re allowed to; because they’re not allowed to; everyone else is; someone just gives them a drink so they have it; they don’t know how to have fun without it; they think you have to on every possible occasion; they want to ‘wipe out’ their feelings temporarily; they have a dependency problem – any teenager who drinks every day, or gets drunk every week, has a serious alcohol problem, whether or not they admit it (there’s more on this in Girls Stuff 13+)

The only way to avoid risk with illegal drugs is not to take any. Because everyone’s brain and body are different, even the same batch of a drug will affect people in different ways. While a friend may have a good time on a drug, and encourage you to use it, that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same result, even if it’s the same dose. Illegal drugs aren’t like prescription ones; they don’t come in accurate doses, so you’ll have no idea how much you’re getting. In most cases when you’re deciding whether or not to take or smoke something, it will be impossible to know precisely what’s in it, its strength or its likely effects.

For more information on legal and illegal drugs get the book, Girls Stuff 13+: Your Full-on Guide to the Teen Years.

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Should I wear make-up or not?

Should I wear make-up or not?

It’s a personal choice whether you do or do not wear make-up.

Make-up isn’t supposed to hide your face. It’s for accentuating and showing off the nice things about it such as your eyes, your lips, your teeth and your natural rosy cheeks. But make-up is basically used a lot by older women trying to look more like teenagers (minus the spotty moments).

Make-up should be something you use as a bit of fun, or not at all. It’s not compulsory. Lots of people never wear it. Some people only ever wear lipstick. Others only wear make-up on special occasions.

More on make-up, style and fashion in the book, Girls Stuff 13+: Your Full-on Guide to the Teen Years.

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What is the right size, shape and weight for me to be?

What is the right size, shape and weight for me to be?

If you answer yes to all of the following questions it’s likely that you’re within your healthy weight range.

  • Do you feel healthy and comfortable?
  • Do you feel fit, strong, flexible and able to do any physical manoeuvres you might want to?
  • Do you usually get some real physical activity every day?
  • Are you eating from a wide range of healthy foods?
  • Do you eat when you’re hungry or at the usual times each day – rather than either ignoring your hunger and rigidly policing your food intake, or eating when you’re bored, upset, already full or not hungry?

There is so much more on healthy living, food, body shapes, body image and weight in the book, Girls Stuff 13+: Your Full-on Guide to the Teen Years.

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Help! I’m so stressed about school and friends and stuff. How can I stay positive?

Help! I’m so stressed about school and friends and stuff. How can I stay positive?

Almost everyone goes through bad patches, experiences moody phases and has times when they feel down. Some have the ability to ‘bounce back’ quickly. They’re optimistic: they expect that things will, or are likely to, turn out well. If that’s not you, you’ll be relieved to hear that you don’t have to be born with optimism – you can learn it. You can also learn resilience: the buzz word that means you are strong – a survivor who can face hard times and come through it all okay; the sort of person who can take a disappointment, instead of going off to brood for days or weeks.

You can learn not to let the pain of a rejection stop you from making new friends. You can aim to be a girl who doesn’t take crap from anyone, who when ‘one door closes’ in your face will kick down a few more. Or at least think about knocking politely.

Ten things to help you cheer up:

  1. Laughing – with friends, at a movie or show. If necessary, get in a water or pillow fight.
  2. Fresh air and light – proven mood lifters.
  3. Affirmations – use a diary, sticky notes, posters or your own thoughts to remind yourself of your good points and things you enjoy or want to achieve.
  4. Exploring your creative side – express your feelings in writing, drawing, music, performance, cooking.
  5. Having things to look forward to. Check your schedule this week: is there any time for fun? If not, start to schedule it for coming weeks.
  6. Taking time out – try to get some time all to yourself. Just lie there in silence or listen to some soft music.
  7. Doing ‘good works’. This could include helping to look after an animal, or volunteering some time or money to a charity.
  8. Telling someone you love them – and doing them a favour.
  9. Having a big clean-out of your room. Chuck out stuff you don’t want that’s cluttering your space, rearrange things the way you want them and start afresh.
  10. You choose. Some people want to spend every spare moment with other people, liking to be ‘kept company’, but others prefer to have some time on their own.

There’s plenty more advice on how to be more optimistic in the book, Girls Stuff 13+: Your Full-on Guide to the Teen Years. You’ll also find advice on how to tackle anxiety, depression and anger.

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How do I deal with someone who is being mean and bullying me?

How do I deal with someone who is being mean and bullying me?

Ignoring meanness is hard: it doesn’t always make it go away, and it doesn’t stop it hurting. Even if you walk away or don’t show a reaction, inside you can still feel crushed or furious. And that’s an understandable and normal reaction. Sometimes anti-bullying tactics work, but sometimes they don’t. Some will work sometimes, or on some bullies. (I mean, how can you ‘avoid them’ if they’re in your class ALL day?)

Some ideas to try:

  • Ignore them. Don’t react, don’t reply, look right through ’em, walk away. Feel free to smile silently, or roll your eyes.
  • Be assertive: stick up for yourself. Imagine them standing there with a big dollop of dog poo or sloppy seagull poo on their head they don’t know about.
  • Confuse them. Sing loudly, recite poetry or comedy, and shout: ‘Yes, the lobster army is marching! To the barricades!’ They’ll say, ‘You’re crazy,’ ‘Ooh, woolly hats akimbo!’ Bullies are often unsettled when confused.
  • Stay positive: focus your mind on people who love you, good times you’ve had and all the things you like about yourself.
  • Threaten to tell an adult. Tell the adult.
  • Learn a self-defence martial art so you feel more physically confident about defending yourself against physical violence if necessary.
  • Hang out in a group: several people against a bully can work.
  • Tell the harasser in person, to stop. You might want to be with a parent or teacher when this happens, or get them to help you send a message in response to a rude or horrible post on social media. If it’s on social media, block them if you can.

There’s much more about meanness and bullying in the book Girl Stuff 8–12: Your Real Guide to the Pre-Teen Years.

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I’ve had a fight with a friend and I don’t know how to fix it. Help!

I’ve  had a fight with a friend and I don’t know how to fix it. Help!

First decide if you really want to fix the friendship or would rather it faded away. To fix it, spend a little more time together, ask the friend to your place, or hang out with them at school a bit more, and gradually you may find the friendship is back on. Sometimes it’s just time going past that heals a friendship.

Friendships can be up one week and down the next, or even on different days. If you need to apologise or ask for an apology, do that. And remember, you can’t fix a friendship by yourself. The other person has to want to, as well.

It can feel messy and upsetting, but sometimes you need to separate yourself from another person. One way to get through it is to keep reminding yourself what you want. This could be new friends who don’t tease you, or some other friends who do stuff instead of just sitting around being mean about other girls. Any sadness and stress you’re going through will be temporary, and your life will be so much better when you have drifted to another group or pal you feel more comfy with.

There’s more about how to drift away from a friendship and other stuff about friends in the book Girl Stuff 8–12: Your Real Guide to the Pre-Teen Years.

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What can I do about pimples?

What can I do about pimples?

If you have started getting pimples and you feel your life is being badly affected, get your mum or dad to take you to a pharmacy. Ask for the cheapest version of a non-soap, oil-free face wash and a 2.5 per cent or 5 per cent benzoyl peroxide pimple cream (ask the pharmacist for advice). Follow the instructions for the pimple cream. If there’s been no sign of improvement after 6 weeks, or the problem is upsetting, or if you and your family are prone to scarring, you need to see your family doctor. Tell your mum or dad to get a ‘referral’ from your family doctor to a skin specialist who will be able to prescribe you the right treatment.

There’s more detailed info on solutions to skin problems such as pimples in the big-sister version of this book, Girl Stuff 13+: Your Full-on Guide to the Teen Years.

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Should I use pads or tampons?

Should I use pads or tampons?

It is a personal choice.  Otherwise known as ‘feminine hygiene products’, pads and tampons are the small, disposable items we use to soak up (absorb) period blood. You can buy them at supermarkets, pharmacists and convenience shops. When they’re just starting periods, most girls try pads first because they don’t feel ready to use tampons, which are pushed up inside the vagina.

Most girls don’t want to use tampons for their first few times, or years, or ever. It’s a totally personal choice. Companies now sell packs of smaller tampons and pads for younger girls or women with smaller bodies. Especially during the first day or two of a period, a pad or tampon might take in all the blood it can absorb within a couple of hours. That’s why you change them often. At your age you probably don’t need to use ‘super-maxi’ or ‘maxi’ or ‘heavy flow’ tampons or pads. Some girls wear a bigger, ‘overnighter’ pad in bed when they have their period as they’ll go for several hours without changing it.

Menstrual cups are re-usable silicone cups you can insert into your vagina which seal up against the cervix. They collect the blood and must be changed every few hours. They should be sterilised before being inserted again and are not the most common choice for girls. Another option is special period undies with a built-in pad that you wash and wear again.

There’s more on all this in the book, Girl Stuff 8–12: Your Real Guide to the Pre-Teen Years.

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When will I get my first ever period, and what can I do to prepare?

When will I get my first ever period, and what can I do to prepare?

Most girls get their first period anywhere between the ages of 9 and 15. It will probably be a surprise one day to see some red or brownish spots of blood on your undies.

Put together a small period kit that can sit in your school bag. Use a small fabric pencil case or make-up bag (ask your mum for help) and fill it with a few supplies. Once your period starts you’ll soon work out what you need, but here are some suggestions:

  • tampons and/or pads
  • baby wipes for washing yourself (although toilet paper is fine)
  • spare undies in case you get blood on the pair you’re wearing
  • two or three folded-up small plastic bags for putting used pads or tampons in before you throw them in a bin
  • two or three sandwich-sized brown-paper bags if you want to cover a see-through plastic bag.

Replace supplies the day you use them, when you get home.

There’s heaps more on periods in the book, Girl Stuff 8–12: Your Real Guide to the Pre-Teen Years.

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