Supporting Your Child Through Precocious Puberty

Today we live in a world where children are rushing to grow up. Provocative musicians that stand as our children’s role models, loose parental guidance over TV shows dealing with adult themes in teenage situations, and pressure from other kids at school makes so many children unsure of when to leave childhood behind for pre adulthood. Puberty, though confusing, can be a big indicator that more mature decisions lay ahead. However, some children are having to make these decisions long before their parents had hoped. The average age for a child to go through puberty is between 10 and 11. Yet, we are now seeing a trend where children are hitting puberty before they even reach second grade.
The pituitary gland is in control of the onset of puberty. When this gland signals the beginning of this transition, signals are sent to other parts of the body to stimulate the ovaries or testicles. In a girl’s case, this starts ovulation and menstruation. Boys inherit this gene in 5% of cases, usually if the father was affected by precocious puberty as well. Girls are the most susceptible to beginning puberty early and a majority of the time it’s caused by no reason at all. This condition can also be set into motion as a result of inadequate brain structure, a tumor on the hypothalamus, head trauma, or infections like meningitis. For reasons like this, it’s extremely important to bring it up to your doctor to determine the cause with a urine and blood test. In some cases you will need to be referred to a specialist.
It can be hard to tell the difference between normal changes and precocious puberty. Puberty usually occurs between the ages of 10-14. Precocious puberty begins in girls from ages 7 to 8 and boys starting at age 9. Girls will start to experience breast development, an increase in height, acne, and even menstruation while still in third grade. Boys with this condition experience acne, enlarged penises and testicles, deepening of their voice, and mood changes. These children will also begin to grow pubic and underarm hair. When puberty starts this early it may begin and then spontaneously stop, or continue until the cycle of puberty is finished. This expedited changes can affect growth because the skeleton stops growing when puberty ends. If the body beings puberty too early your skeleton will not have a chance to reach its full potential.
As difficult as it is to see your child go through such a huge change so early, it can also be extremely traumatic on your child. Developing early can make your child the target of bullying. Girls can become moody and irritable, boys can become aggressive and develop and early sex drive. Even though they are only in elementary school they are beginning to feel huge adult feelings that they don’t understand.
When talking to your child about the situation, be truthful and age appropriate. Have these conversations in private. It’s important to let your child know what changes are ahead of them and open the door for any questions they might have. Look out for signs of depressions or problems at school.

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