From severe hormones and acne to body hair and body odors, puberty can be a rocky transition for children. But girls and boys who start physically developing earlier than their peers are exposed to special social and emotional challenges, find researchers.
"Puberty is a crucial time in children's lives and early mature boys and girls may be more likely to fight psychologically," said Jane Mendle, a psychologist and associate professor at Cornell University.
A 2018 study made by Mendle and her team found that girls who entered puberty significantly earlier than their peers were at higher risk of mental health problems. They are more likely to become depressed during adolescents, the study finds, and this distress may continue in adulthood.
"For some girls, puberty can throw them of course, and the emotional stress may drop," Mendle says. even after the challenges of puberty. "
While the age range of puberty varies, Jennifer Dietrich, a pediatric gynecologist at Texas Children's Hospital, says the average age of menstruation is 12.3 years, but about 15% of women begin puberty much earlier – at 7
Research by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that boys also develop earlier, at least 10 years, which is six months to a year earlier than previous generations Pediatricians have not identified a single cause for this shift, but Louise Greenspan, a childhood endocrinologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, says childhood obesity, environmental chemical contributors, and the effects of chronic stress – a hormonal response to neglect or abuse in the family, for example – can all play a role.
At a ruling time when the kids long to fit in, puberty can make them stand out, and when the breast buds and body hair spread In primary school, children often feel vulnerable. It is not possible to hide their sexual development from others, they can be ashamed or embarrassed.
Cosette Taillac, a psychotherapist at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, reminds of a special client, a 9-year-old girl, who began to feel self-conscious play football because her body developed
When the little girl no longer wanted to participate in sports – something she always loved – sought her parents' help.
"She didn't want to dress in front of her teammates," Taillac says. 19659004] Studies show girls who are physically maturing early, may be more likely than boys to root about these unpleasant feelings. According to researchers, this can prolong the emotion, which can increase the risk of depression and anxiety.
But even though girls are more likely to internalize the stress they feel, the boys are not undamaged, Mendle says.
In research from Mendle and her colleagues, early mature boys were more likely than others to feel socially isolated and to face conflicts with friends and classmates. "This can increase the risk of depression," she says, "but we are uncertain whether these effects go into adulthood."
Because early development information tends to focus on girls, parents are often upset when their sons start puberty early, says Fran Walfish, child and adolescent psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, California.
The first clues, she says, can come when a middle boy refuses to shower or wear deodorant.
Help the children navigate these New social and emotional barriers can be difficult, especially since puberty spans several years. But don't be afraid to reach out – or start the conversation early.
Greenspan suggests talking to children about sexual development at age 6 or 7. "Start the conversation when the children are young and keep communication lines open can make the transition less daunting," she says.
Sometimes parents may also need to advocate their children. "My client's parents worked with the football coach to create more integrity for her when they dressed in team events," says Taillac. The simple adjustment helped the girl feel safe and secure.
Of course, not all children are eager for parental help; some shy from talking about their newfound struggles, sometimes it is a sign they are confused or overwhelmed, says child psychologists.
"It is important for parents to realize that puberty triggers identity issues such as" Who am I? "and" Where to fit i'm in? " for boys and girls, Walfish says.
Taillac says reading books together can help. "Books give a common language to discuss what is happening, which can open conversations between parents and children," she says.
For the elementary school girls, "Care and Care of You: The Bodybook for Young Girls" by Valorie Schaefer can be a good book. Reading "The Tween Book: A Growing Guide to Change" by Wendy Moss and Donald Moses can be informative for boys and girls, even when they reach teens.
Seeing your baby mature early can also worry about a parent. If you are unsure how to intervene, say psychologists, remember that worried children often want the same thing we all look for when we are upset – a generous dose of empathy.
Fortunately, compassion does not require parents to have all the answers. Puberty calls for the same good parenting as any other age: to be emotionally accessible to children through their developmental colonies, witness their growing pains and give comfort when life throws them wicker balls.
Advice is easy; the effects are powerful. Scientific evidence shows that this type of parental help helps promote emotional resilience, and it strengthens children's health and relationships over the coming years.
July Fraga is a psychologist and writer in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @ dr_fraga .