“What issues should I look out for when my child hits puberty?”

October 5, 2018

The transition from childhood to adulthood can be a tricky period for kids and parents alike. Occurring between the ages of 11 and 15, it is a developmental stage marked by rapid physical changes, a spike in independence and changes in the child’s identity.

Here are some of the issues that you and your child can expect to face during puberty:

1. Low self-esteem

A child’s sense of identity and self-worth can come under fire from different directions during the adolescent years. Young teens often struggle with not knowing who they are or what they want and frequently compare themselves with other people.

This can be exacerbated by the frequent check-ins on social media and the resulting sense that they are not cool enough, smart enough, or good-looking enough.

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2. Emotional and mood swings

When a child hits puberty, mood swings and emotional upheavals seem to be the order of the day.

Every emotion gets heightened during adolescence; every setback or failure can likewise be extremely disappointing or upsetting.

Some youngsters exhibit a low tolerance for frustration, and even small things like not being able to wear their favourite shirt can become intolerable. Others may slip into depression, so do keep a lookout for the warning signs. These may include hostile or withdrawn behaviour, use of alcohol, or a dip in grades.

3. Physical changes

The bodily changes that teenagers experience can be a source of discomfort and self-consciousness. Many pre-teens may even report being dissatisfied with their body and looks and can become easily embarrassed.

Know that children develop at a different pace. It’s important to not be critical about your teen’s appearances and to give them space to figure out the changes in their bodies. Be there if they want to talk about it, but if not, refrain from forcing the topic on them.

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4. An emerging independence

Teens will desire greater levels of independence as they grow. This can be a great source of conflict, but it is also a normal part of growing up. As parents, we need to know how to let go and yet provide appropriate guidelines and boundaries for safety.

5. An interest in the opposite sex

It’s no secret – adolescence is usually accompanied by a strong interest in the opposite sex. It is normal for youths to explore their budding sexuality and to develop crushes on their friends.

Children during this stage will have lots of questions about sex and sexuality on their minds, and while it’s unlikely for them to share all their thoughts with us, it’s important that we begin the ‘sex-talk’ earlier rather than later, and continue to keep the lines of communication open.

With our youths going through such intense changes, physically, emotionally, and mentally, it can be a challenge for them just to get through a typical school day. As such, we need to be emotionally available to our kids during these transitional years to show them the care and concern that they need – even when they say they don’t.

Written by June Yong

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