That caught my attention. I looked over and noticed a mother and a young girl in a discussion over a bra.
Despite her declaration, that young girl didn’t have boobs. But her excited outburst did get me thinking. It won’t be long before my oldest daughter turns 9. Soon, puberty will kick in. The hormones that will begin to flow through her body will bring on changes that I’m not sure I want to deal with just yet. She will have questions about her changing body and I will have to answer them. And the questions won’t just be about boobs either. They will be about hair. They will be about pimples. They will be about menstruation. They will also be about boys.
Although the conversation is fast approaching, I think I can deal with teaching my daughter about her eventual physical changes as well as the ‘birds and the bees’. That is factual information that will help her understand and cope with what will happen to her body.
Throughout puberty, the changes kids’ bodies undergo will include:
- growth and weight gain
- development of breasts and growth of sexual organs
- growth of pubic hair
- growth of hair under arms and on legs
- menstruation in girls
- voice changes in boys
- facial hair and muscle growth in boys
These changes may be confusing to kids and they may feel embarrassed by them. It’s our job as parents to reassure them and explain about development in puberty. There are many good books out there to help with that. Usborne Children’s Books publish ‘What’s Happening To Me?’ for both boys and girls. It’s an excellent resource. Additionally, tap into your own memories about your experiences or seek advice from trusted friends, siblings or parents on how to speak to your child about the wild and wonderful things going on inside them. What’s important is to keep the lines of communication open and honestly answer any questions your child may have. Reassure your child that all the physical and emotional changes are a normal part of puberty and their friends and peers are going through the same, although it may not be happening at the same pace. Some children start puberty as early as 8 or as late as 13 years old. We all get there in the end and by the time a child reaches early adulthood, their hormones will stabilize and their growth will be complete.
Puberty not only means physical changes but emotional ones too. Hormones will create mood swings and irritability. Children may feel elated one minute and down in the dumps the next. Kids will start feeling pressure from peers and struggle with the expectations they place on themselves as well as what society expects of them. The desire to fit in will be strong and they may feel confused about where they belong.
Girls, in particular, will deal with body image issues. She’ll start to compare herself with others much more than she did when she was younger. She’ll start watching what her peers are doing, how they are dressing and how they are behaving in peer groups. Her friend’s opinions will start to matter – a lot. She’ll also start paying more attention to images she’s exposed to in the media. These can be unhealthy to body image perception since celebrity culture focuses on perfection. Take the opportunity to talk to your daughter about how the media portrays what’s ‘normal’. Ask her what she thinks beautiful is. Share your own opinion on beauty with her. This is the time to have an open discussion about body image and self esteem. Rest assured that you continue to influence your child and even if she doesn’t say it, your opinion matters to her.
All these emotional changes will inevitably make life a little more complicated. Friendships could become a little tricky. Interests will change, veering away from childish play to things like makeup, Teen Magazine and fashion. So how do parents help their child navigate the seas of emotional and psychological changes associated with puberty?
Understanding the emotional nature of pre-teens and teenagers is useful. They start to seek independence from their parents. Their peers become most important in all areas of their social life. They become more opinionated and can become rebellious. They are forming their own thoughts and perspectives on life. Give your growing child enough space to allow them to find their independence safely and trust them to make the right decisions for themselves. Honest communication and an open door policy will help in this process. Ensure your child knows you are not there to judge. Yes, you are the parent and your house rules need to be respected, but you are also a great source of information and support for them.
Lastly, keep things positive. Blossoming into a young adult is a wonderful thing. The process of puberty is the beginning of the journey into adulthood and eventually, into parenthood. Yes, it will be a bumpy road for you and your teen, but bumpy roads make for an interesting ride!