Talking About Early Puberty
Wibbelsman suggests parents say some or all of the following things to promote healthy self-esteem for children with early puberty.
- “Everybody goes through puberty. You just started early.”
- “It’s important for you to take care of yourself — and I’m here to help.”
- To address mood swings in girls: “At certain times you may have confusing feelings. This is normal. You may feel crazy but you are not.”
If your child is 6 years old, it is not too early to start talking about love and relationships. A good measure of your child’s readiness to talk about the topic is the questions she asks. By answering with truthful, simple information, you can let your child know she can talk openly with you now and throughout puberty.
Precocious Puberty and a Girl’s Behavior
If your daughter has precocious puberty, the influx of hormones could send her into mood swings before any of her friends. Having visible breasts could make your daughter self-conscious, even ashamed of her body.
Girls with precocious puberty can have a higher risk for poor relationships, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse as teens, maybe a result of standing out before they’re ready for the extra attention.
Despite her young age, take your daughter’s experience seriously. Let her know that the changes she’s going through are normal -- she just started a few years earlier than most kids. Remember that she is still a young child who looks to you for love, comfort, and reassurance.
Early Puberty and a Boy’s Behavior
Early puberty is more common in girls than boys. If your son does start puberty early, he may become aggressive and develop a sex drive ahead of his years. He may have trouble relating to boys his age and have trouble concentrating in school.
As with girls, keep treating your son as the boy he is, even if he’s starting to look like a man. Be affectionate and give him a chance to talk through his frustrations.
Early Puberty and the Outside World
When your child interacts with other kids or adults, questions may arise about her early development. Older kids might want to befriend her because of the way she looks, even though she’s much younger than they are socially and emotionally.
Pay attention to your child’s group of friends -- there are many good reasons to do so. A study in 2007 showed that the age and behavior of children’s social groups played a strong role in whether children with precocious puberty got involved in using drugs or alcohol. As a parent, you can set household rules that will protect your child, including the age of her friends.
De Reyna took a matter-of-fact approach to discussing her daughter’s precocious puberty. “I don’t believe in hiding the truth from kids,” she says. “It makes kids believe there’s something wrong with them.” When a kid at school asked her daughter why she had breasts, de Reyna told her to say, “because I’m a girl,” and leave it at that.
De Reyna took a similar approach with curious adults. Other parents often commented on how tall Emily was compared to the other kids. Kids with precocious puberty are often tall for their age initially, but may stop growing at an earlier age reaching shorter heights as adults. “I’d either just smile and say, ‘yes, she is tall’ or I’d tell them she had a medical condition. That was always enough,” says de Reyna.