The Dawn of a New Era of Maturity: Supporting Our Growing Teen

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It starts with an eye roll, a slammed door, muttering under their breath as they stomp away, and you wonder when your sweet child became a teenager, but wait, they’re only preadolescent, just a tween. We aren’t there yet. Almost everything about puberty has changed since today’s adults went through the awkward phase, and many of us weren’t adequately warned or advised on the basics we would experience. Now, the topic of puberty and maturation is more complex, not forgetting all the things kids have now that didn’t exist when we were at that stage. 

Once upon a time, it was standard that between the ages of 10 and 14, we would notice changes in our bodies. We would go through this awkwardness for three to four years. However, recent research  suggests that puberty is now starting at age 8-9 for girls and 9-10 for boys and lasts up to a decade! For females, researchers note periods stayed roughly the same, with just the marked physical changes starting earlier.  It’s also stated that puberty and adolescence overlap, causing our children to experience social, emotional, and physical shifts to all co-exist.

Fear not if your child is a little older than this and you haven’t had this discussion with them yet. It’s never too late, and everything is different for everyone. 

What to look out for in your child

To be clear, there is not one thing to look out for, but if you’re asking yourself why your younger child is acting like a teenager, it might be time to start the conversation. What happens when? No one knows.

We do know and see our children experiencing big feelings, and they all have them about where they fall on the spectrum compared to their peers. You might notice your 3rd or 5th graders, boys especially, starting to hide their bodies and becoming quiet. It’s time to check with your pediatrician.

When did high schoolers become so tall? Weight, height, curves, hair and physical dimensions show earlier and are more pronounced even by middle school, but especially by high school compared to today’s adults. I remember it taking until the eleventh grade before I noticed any fundamental changes, such as that at 5’11, I was towering over my classmates, but walking through the halls of high school today, I am looking up. 

How we as parents can guide and support them

This aspect is a lot harder for parents today, with the influence of social media on body image for girls and boys. You can space out conversations without dumping too much information on them because not everything will happen overnight. Explain what’s happening to their body in simple terms, noting that while they act much older, keep things appropriate for their true age. Please do what you can to boost their self-esteem, focusing on activities and grades rather than body.

Keep lines of communication open and encourage them to speak freely. Don’t falsely reassure them that everything will be fine or that there will be a day they won’t even remember all of this. It’s important not to diminish any feelings our children might have since this is a big deal to them. 

As always recommended, talk with your child’s pediatrician and follow the guidelines provided. 

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