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My child is in prepuberty, what can I expect?

From about the age of 9 to 10, everything changes in your child. You notice changes in behavior and mood and perhaps even physically changes. It could be that pre-puberty is starting. It won't be long before your teenager will be an adolescent. So what now? There will be changes for your child, and expected changes in you as a parent to support your child during this period. Here you will find the answer to these and other questions.

What is prepuberty?

Every child starts (pre)puberty when he/she is ready. When puberty begins, most people think of the physical changes: the pubic hair growing, the sexual organs beginning to change, and the body shape moving toward adulthood. But in doing so we are doing a disservice to the internal mental world of our (pre)adolescents. Because it always starts with the hormonal changes that take place on the inside. Only then will we see the physical characteristics and behavior of our teenagers change.

Around the age of 9 to 10 years old, girls become more socially interested, under the influence of hormones. They have more boyfriends and/or girlfriends and are very busy with the rest of the world. In boys this often occurs a little later. Once they enter puberty, they become more enterprising, more motor-savvy and curious about the rest of the world. Both gender want to get off the beaten track and discover the rest of the world. The development of (learning to) logical thinking, reasoning and abstract thinking also begins around the age of ten.

All kinds of areas develop in the brain, including the emotional and rational parts of the brain. But because the emotional part develops faster than the rational part, (pre)adolescents act from their emotions. They cannot yet control this with the rational part.

All those changes can make children insecure. They don't ask for it, it happens to them.

Stages of puberty:

There are different stages of puberty. The average age of reaching puberty for girls is 10-11 years, and it is completed by the age of 15-16 years. The average age of reaching puberty for boys is 11-12 years, and it is completed by the age of 16-17 years. Hence, there are three main stages of start, middle, and completion of puberty in the human body. Most people often mistake teenage with puberty. While both terms are associated with the same age only, there is a difference in the holistic approach.

The first stage of puberty has active brain signals to prepare it for the upcoming changes. The second stage marks the beginning of physical development in the body. The third and the final stage leads to the quite obvious physical changes. Hence, this step-by-step onset of puberty makes it easier to understand the cause of the changes during puberty.

The physical aspect:

The prepuberty means the start of growth in the body. All of us know that we are born with the majority of the gender organs. But there is a situation in which they will start working. This release of hormones decides this age. This marks the start of puberty for young boys and girls. There is the only release of hormones, and hence no physical changes are observed yet.

The hormones can be described as the chemical messengers that are released into the blood. The release of hormones is done by the different glands in our body. Puberty starts with the release of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone or GnRH. This gonadotropin-releasing hormone reaches for help to the pituitary gland that is termed as the contact center of glands.

The pituitary gland further controls the release of hormones by different glands. Just imagine a centralized system that controls the sub-systems. All these work in sync to get the best out of the machinery called the human body. Going deep into the functioning of the pituitary gland, the emotional changes during puberty start with the release of luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones.

The whole body organs are now full of the signals to start puberty. So, your body has made all of the necessary arrangements for the start of a new phase in your life.

The emotional aspect:

You can see the physical changes but what you can’t see are the emotional changes going on in your kid. These are accompanied by hormonal changes in the body. You can consider these emotional changes during puberty as the start of some new activity in your child’s body. While all emotional changes are common for all kids, their intensity can vary from child to another. Emotions as oversensitive, uncertainty, peer pressure and sexual identity crisis my increase in this time.

I understand you, but I don't understand you.. Prepuberty understand what you say to them, but do not understand which emotion we associate with it. That you're worried if they don't come home on time or didn't call to let you know they'll be late, your (pre)teenager doesn't understand anything about that. They cannot yet properly assess the emotions of others. Now we can teach them that, but it makes children anxious and they often also develop a feeling of guilt. So we look for the right balance between stimulating their curiosity and when they run too much risk.

Dealing with prepuberty

Pre-puberty heralds a new phase for your child, but also for you as a parent. And although you will grow into this again, tips & tricks are never missing.

  • Talk to your child about the changes and what this means for your child. It is important to acknowledge your child's feelings; 'Yes, it is also difficult when everything changes and you seem to have no control over your own mood.'

  • Let your child be moody/grumpy, that is also part of it. No matter how your child feels, it's okay. Only the behavior that can result from it is not. You can be grumpy, but don't slam doors.

  • Let your child know that you are always there for him/her, even when he/she is cranky!

  • Give your child space to form their own opinions and develop their own identity and set some boundaries about it. Because children in pre-puberty are often bolder and also need boundaries to be set. As a parent you determine the frameworks (boundaries) and within them you give your child the space to develop his/her own identity.

  • Don't make it bigger than it is. If you throw everything at pre-puberty, children can take it as a license: 'This is (pre)puberty, I can act like this'.

  • Let your child think along and give them responsibility. Can you sometimes accommodate your child in some way, instead of just strictly guarding your boundaries.

Remember that your child is unable to deal with all of these changes during puberty, and the parents must take care of them. Also if it looks like they don't want or need your help, they need you support, love and guidance. Your kid may not demand your attention at this time, but you have to ensure the same with the least interference.

Puberty is an important phase of life, and you can make it a lot easier and enjoyable for both sides.

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