Over the weekend the New York Times Magazine featured an article on the declining age of puberty, more specifically breast budding, in girls. Doctors believe there are some factors that play into whether a girl will reach puberty sooner. These factors are: being overweight, environmental chemicals, and family stress. The latter is why this article piqued our interest since we regularly deal with families in chronic stress.
The article notes, “Girls who from an early age grow up in homes without their biological fathers are twice as likely to go into puberty younger as girls who grow up with both parents.” There is also a pattern of early puberty when parents divorce between a daughter’s third and eighth birthday and whose father’s exhibit deviant behaviors such as alcohol abuse or violence. Girls who reach puberty earlier than their peers are at higher risk for social problems later in life. They suffer from lower self-esteem, depression and eating disorders. They may begin drinking alcohol at an earlier age and are more likely to lose their virginity at an age when they are unable to grasp the long term consequences.
If you are concerned that your child might be reaching puberty earlier than expected, talk with their pediatrician. Talk with your daughter about her changing body and focus on her emotional health.
If you are in the midst of a high conflict divorce or custody case, we always advise our clients not to drag the children into the litigation. What does that mean?
- Don’t speak ill of the other parent. Remember what your mother said,”if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.” Remind your children that they are loved by both parents.
- Don’t ask the children where they want to live. Unless your children are over the age of fourteen, they don’t get much of a say in custody. Most children are terribly anxious when they feel they are going to disappoint a parent.
- Don't use the children as a messenger.
- Don’t promise the children anything you can’t deliver.
Take an active role in reducing their stress. You can do this by:
- Enroll your kids in a divorce support groups at their school.
- If your child is prone to anxiety, look into private counseling.
- Maintain their regular routine by keeping them in the same school and in their extra-curricular activities.
- Engage in fun, inexpensive activities like going to the park or going for a bicycle ride.