Medical Issues Affecting Today's Kids
Managing Precocious Puberty at School
When a child develops before his or her peers, life at school can be a challenge. Use these strategies to help your child thrive with precocious puberty.
By Wyatt Myers
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
Don't Miss This
Sign Up for OurHealthy LivingNewsletter
Thanks for signing up!You might also like these other newsletters:
If your child goes through precocious puberty — physically and sexually maturing earlier than normal — it can be a challenging time both physically and emotionally. Often, kids are confused about the changes happening to their bodies, and, worse still, hurt by remarks from other school kids, who often taunt anyone who’s the slightest bit different.
With precocious puberty, your child will probably grow faster than many of his or her peers and show signs of puberty, such as developing body hair and body odor. For girls in particular, signs like budding breasts are noticeable, which may make the condition more socially awkward.
“Early physical developmental changes for girls can produce greater social conflict, as it can encourage verbal cruelty in the form of verbal insults and conclusions made in regard to early sexuality,” says Cheryl L. Repass, PsyD, director of graduate programs in school psychology and school counseling at Roberts Wesleyan College. “It can place them in a situation where they emotionally desire sexual experiences, which are not shared by peers of their age and force them into an older peer group. When boys mature early physically, it more often conveys the social message of confidence, maturity, strength, and athleticism and can generate social acceptance and envy from their same-age peers.”
Precocious Puberty: How Parents Can Help
Puberty is a confusing time for all kids, and when that process is ramped up several years earlier than the norm, particularly when kids’ friends aren’t going through it yet, it can be emotionally overwhelming. But your parenting skills can help them with their self-esteem. “Parents can explain to their children that their bodies are going through the same changes that older kids often have," says Penny B. Donnenfeld, PhD, a clinical psychologist who works with children in the New York City area. If your child is seeing a doctor for precocious puberty, also explain "that the doctor is going to help try to slow down these changes so that they will happen later."
“This is a time when it is very important to give your child space to talk about what he or she thinks is happening and then to gently correct misconceptions," Donnenfeld notes.
In addition to talking openly about early puberty with your child, you can offer coping mechanisms that help boost self-esteem, especially in the face of taunting school kids. These strategies may help:
- Equip them with knowledge.One way to help a child’s self-esteem while dealing with precocious puberty is to explain the situation as best you can. “You might use a book about puberty with illustrations, one geared toward your child’s age and mental developmental stage,” Donnenfeld says. “Your endocrinologist might have materials or a suggested list of books for you.”
Teach them how to deal with bullying.“Responding to teasing and bullying is not specific to early puberty — it applies to a wide range of situations when other children either target or single out one child for ridicule,” Donnenfeld says. Basic steps for parents, she says, include:
- Stressing the importance of seeking out a teacher or other adult if bullying is occurring
- Suggesting that the child tell his or her friends about the bullying so that they can supply support
- Role-playing situations that the child is confronted with to help develop responses that curtail the interactions in a noninflammatory way
- Giving your child space to tell you about what's happening without jumping in to ‘fix’ it or problem-solve.
- Know your children’s friends.As a parent, you can help craft your child’s social circle and make sure it remains a loving, accepting one. “Making sure you stay connected to the social environments and, most important, the established friendship circles children are in is very important," Repass says. “Put extra time into encouraging more positive social interactions that show promise of clear acceptance.”
- Seek outside support.When Denise de Reyna’s young daughter Emily was going through precocious puberty, one thing that helped de Reyna tremendously was speaking with other parents in the same situation. She was able to do so through events held by , a resource for a variety of youth health conditions. “I was so excited to meet other families who had the same questions, concerns, and frustrations as I had," says de Reyna of the first Magic Foundation conference she attended. "It really helped me to hear the stories and experiences of other families dealing with central precocious puberty.”
Knowing that there are resources available and using them will give you and your child the tools to manage precocious puberty with the child's self-esteem intact.
Video: Precocious puberty | Miscellaneous | Heatlh & Medicine | Khan Academy
How to Do a Full Body Makeover
How to Plan Cooking for People All Weekend
Hermès FallWinter 2014-2015 Collection – Paris Fashion Week
Beauty MVP: Kiernan Shipka’s Easy TexturedWaves
Watch Snow Blanket Buffalo, NY, in Breathtaking Time-Lapse Video
5 Fixes for the Most Common Beauty Emergencies
Jenny Palter: My Life With Lupus
Watch Madonna’s powerful speech on being a woman in the music industry
20 Non-Toxic Nail Polishes
The Luxury Men’s Trainer Brands You Should Know
3 Ways to Crave Water
Finding sleep solutions
How to Manage Your Money (for Teenagers)
How to Fix Leaking Pipes
Choosing Healthy Drinks for Your Kids