In this final entry in my series of blogs about hormone disruptors, I want to talk about stress as a factor in early puberty. We started with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in food (see that blog here) and our environment (see that blog here), and we’ve addressed the link between obesity and early puberty (see that blog here). Stress is the fourth element commonly cited when experts are seeking answers for why puberty is starting earlier and earlier (especially in girls).
In an article published in August of last year, Discover said: “Since the 1970’s, the age of puberty has gotten younger. While the changes are gradual, they add up. From 1970 to 2013, the onset of puberty has decreased in age by 0.24 years per decade and, 50 years later, kids as young as 6 years old are starting to develop into adults.” Based on the feedback I get from parents, I know that few are expecting to have to deal with puberty that early, so it’s important to be prepared and to understand why it’s happening.
The Discover article talks about stressful family lives and abuse affecting hormones in children. A more recent article from Salon, published this August, presents findings from a new study that says “the pandemic seems to have accelerated this increase.” (One of the experts quoted in the Salon article is Dr. Louise Greenspan, one of the authors of The New Puberty, a book I strongly encourage parents to read.)
If you Google stress + early puberty, you’ll find myriad articles and scholarly papers addressing the connection, some of which are more than 30 years old. The stresses today’s kids face are pretty intense. In addition to extreme challenges faced by children growing up in poverty or in tricky home situations, every child in schools today had to withdraw from society for a prolonged period due to the pandemic, they are all doing active shooter drills at school and they all have a barrage of messages flooding their brains every day from social media. It’s no wonder they’re stressed!
So what can you do about it? The heart of my work since I founded the Birds & Bees Connection more than 20 years ago has been opening healthy dialogues between parents and children. Making it comfortable for your kids to come to you with questions and concerns, being a patient and empathetic listener and learning enough to have accurate and reliable information to share with them can be a remarkably effective way to help them process the world and manage stress.
What I have seen over and over as a puberty educator and coach is parents waiting a little too long to talk to their kids about puberty, parents bringing the trauma and discomfort of their own puberty experience to the conversation, and parents being afraid that opening a dialogue with their children will inspire precocious behavior. The truth is that parents who can calmly and frankly have age-appropriate discussions with their kids about any topic will dispel taboos, prevent their children seeking information from peers and the internet first, and make sure they’re looped in on where their kids are mentally and emotionally as they develop.
If you’re unsure where to start the conversation, I’ve got you covered. Check out the Live Courses page on my website and contact me to arrange a private class for you and your child and their friends. If you don’t live in Southern California, please look at the E-Courses page.
We require attendees to provide a minimum of 48 hours notice for cancellation of any class registration if a refund is desired.
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