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Early Puberty: Parents Can Help Build a Child's Resilience: Shots



 Hitting puberty at age 7 or 8 - a couple of years earlier than average can cause long-lasting anxiety for kids. But the right kind of parental support can help.

 Hitting puberty at age 7 or 8 - a couple of years earlier than average can cause long-lasting anxiety for children.

From surging hormones and acne to body hair and body odor, puberty can be a rocky transition for any kid. But girls and boys who begin physically developing sooner than their peers face particular social and emotional challenges, researchers find.

"Puberty is a pivotal time in kids' lives, and early maturing boys and girls may be more likely to struggle psychologically, "says Jane Mendle, a psychologist and associate professor at Cornell University.

A 2018 study by Mendle and her team found that girls who entered puberty significantly earlier than their peers were at a higher risk for mental health concerns. "For some girls, puberty can throw them off course, and emotional stress can be delayed," Mendle says, "they're more likely to become depressed during adolescence, the study finds, and this distress can persist in adulthood."

Even after the challenges of puberty wane. "

While the age-range for puberty varies, says Jennifer Dietrich, a pediatric gynecologist at Texas Children's Hospital, the average age of menstruation is 12.3 years old. However, about 15% of females start puberty much earlier – by the age of 7.

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that boys are also developing earlier, by age 10, which is six months to one year earlier than previous generations

Pediatricians have not identified a cause for this shift, but Louise Greenspan, a pediatric endocrinologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, says childhood obesity, environmental chemical contributors, and the effects of chronic stress – a The hormonal response to neglect or abuse in the family, for example – may all play a role.

At a crucial time when the kids are long fit to fit, puberty can make them stand out. And when the breastbone and body hair sprout during the elementary school, children often feel exposed. Unable to hide their sexual development from others, they may feel ashamed or embarrassed.

Cosette Taillac, a psychotherapist at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., Recalls a particular client, a 9-year-old girl who was beginning to feel self-conscious playing soccer because her body was developing

When she was no longer wanted to participate in sports – she was always loved – her parents sought Taillac's help.

"She did not want to dress in front of her teammates," says Taillac. 19659004] Studies show girls who are physically mature early, maybe more likely than boys to ruminate about these uneasy feelings. According to researchers, this can prolong the emotional distress, which may increase their risk of depression and anxiety.

Still, although girls are more likely to internalize the stress they feel, the boys are not unscathed, says Mendle. In research by Mendle and her colleagues, early maturing boys were more likely than others to feel socially isolated and face conflicts with friends and classmates. "This may increase their risk of depression," she says, "but we're uncertain if these effects last into adulthood."

Because information about early development tends to focus on girls, parents are often perplexed when their sons start puberty. Early, says Fran Walfish, a child and adolescent psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Their first clue, she says, may come when a tween boy is refusing to shower or wear a deodorant.

Helping kids navigate these new social and emotional hurdles can be tricky, especially since puberty spans several years

Greenspan suggests talking to children about sexual development by age 6 or 7. "Starting the conversation when kids are young and maintaining communication lines. open can make the transition less scary, "she says.

At times, parents may also need to advocate for their children. "My client's parents worked with the football coach to create more privacy for her when dressing for team events," says Taillac. The simple adjustment helped the girl feel safe and more confident.

Of course, not all kids are eager for a parent's help; Some shy away from even talking about their newfound struggles. That's sometimes a sign they're confused or overwhelmed, child psychologists say.

"It's important for parents to realize that puberty triggers identity issues like" Who am I? " and 'Where do I fit in?' for boys and girls, "says Walfish.

Taillac says that reading books together can help. "Books provide a common language to discuss what's going on, which can open conversations between parents and children," she says.

For elementary school girls, "The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls," by Valorie Schaefer can be a helpful book. Reading "The Tween Book: A Growing Up Guide for the Changing You," by Wendy Moss and Donald Moses, may be informative for boys and girls, even as they reach the teen years.

Seeing your baby mature early can also worry a parent. If you find yourself unsure how to intervene, psychologists say, remember that distraught kids often want the same thing we all seek when we're upset – a generous dose of empathy.

Luckily, compassion does not require parents to have all the answers. Puberty calls for the same good parenting skills as any other age: being emotionally accessible to children through their developmental milestones, witnessing their growing pains and providing comfort when life throws them curveballs.

That advice is simple; the effects powerful. Scientific evidence shows that this kind of parental support helps to foster emotional resilience and that it will bolster children's health and relationships for years to come.

Juli Fraga is a psychologist and writer in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @dr_fraga .


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