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10 years old and growing fast

WE may not wish it upon our children, and some of us prefer to be in denial, but there is a group of children who are on the fast track to puberty. ‘Nooooooo!’ You might want to cry ‘Not my child – he or she is still a baby’. But let’s be real; if your child is ten, or older he/she is a pre-adolescent and soon his/her body will be preparing for puberty.

You have two choices: you can accept these facts and holistically assist your child through this strange chapter in his/her childhood; or you can try to pretend it is not happening and ignore the hair growing under the arms and the shapes and sizes he/she will change into, sometimes literally overnight.
When it comes to children, it is always better to prepare them for the future. They appreciate hearing facts about life, from their parents, carers and loved ones. These are the adults they should turn to for care, attention and protection. Protecting children is much more than just a physical endeavour. Protection also involves giving them relevant information, so they know what to expect in life, and for them to make informed choices.

Puberty is a process where children become sexually mature; it begins around 10 -14 years old in girls and 12 – 16-years old in boys. As their bodies change, naturally children will have questions about, one, the transformations they are experiencing and, two, although they may not mention it, surrounding sexual health. Remember, these significant changes are new to them, so even if they seem to be coping well, they still need guidance.
If parents could recognise and share information with their children at significant stages of their development, it would assist children emotionally, socially and

build their self-esteem. More parents should work to empower their children rather than belittle them or make fun of them as their bodies change.
Children going through puberty find it awkward enough, without thoughtless parents ridiculing them. ‘Oh, so you think you’s a woman ‘cause you getting breast nah?’ or they might tell a boy, ‘…as you get little height, you playing you’s a man…you big and stupid’.
Parents aim to hurt the child or cut them down to size by making remarks about their growing, changing bodies. What they should do is help the child through these changes in a positive way. Explain to the children what to expect during puberty and why this transition happens to everyone. Teach them how to step up their hygiene and give them useful tips on same. Children develop at different rates so remind them not to compare themselves with their peers (although they will and always do).

While the pubescent body is changing, children’s minds are also developing. Their personality is taking shape, and they begin to form their own opinions, which may be quite different from the ones with which they were raised. It is healthy for children to create their thoughts and ideas and even respectfully challenge their peers and others. It is a small step towards the bigger picture of growing up and becoming independent. Other factors include children becoming more concerned about their body image and choice of clothes.
Parents need to have a good rapport with their children during pre-adolescence, more than at any other time; during adolescence, it is far easier for children to be influenced by peers. Young people need a sense of direction and a solid role model to look up to during this time. Although they should have a reasonable ability to perceive right from wrong, some adolescents end up partaking in criminal activities or performing senseless, thoughtless acts.
They need the constant watchful eye and involvement of their parents or carers, even if they seem fine, trustworthy, happy and contented, stay connected to your children, let them know that you care and are there for them.

While some children sail through pre-adolescence and adolescence without a hitch, others may become overwhelmed by the experience and appear sad and moody. It is natural, as children slowly leave behind their childhood and move towards the world of adulthood. But if symptoms of worthlessness, isolation and hopelessness persist, it could be signs of depression and medical advice should be sought.
Puberty can be a confusing time for children if they have no idea what is happening to their bodies and what they should expect. You may be thinking, ‘Well my parents didn’t tell me one thing, and I turned out just fine’. But wouldn’t you have preferred that they did ‘clue you in’ along the way as you were growing and that you learnt about the whole life cycle and reproduction process naturally?

It is not a dark, sinister secret, only shared amongst peers; it is the most natural experience that we all should embrace.
Parents who find it difficult to speak to children about reproduction, puberty, contraception, sexual intercourse or other topics of this nature, should make use of the many online sites that offer tips and information for children and parents. Cartoons on these subjects can be useful as a starting point for conversation. It is a parental duty to prepare children for their future, and there can be no excuses, with so much information at hand.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at childcaregy@gmail.com
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF HUMAN SERVICES AND SOCIAL SECURITY

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