There are many changes that you will notice as your child begins to mature through puberty. Parents are usually caught off guard by these changes and their first thought is that something is wrong.
Let me assure you, everything is probably fine. Your child is experiencing rapid changes in their brain as well as hormonal changes in their body and it will seem like they woke up one day and they were a different person.
It is during these rapid growth years that your child will begin to establish a more mature body image. It will evolve throughout puberty and be affected by many different factors.
I want to share with you some of the changes your child will experience during puberty, as well as some tips to inspire a positive and healthy body image in your teens and tweens!
Changes in Your Child’s Brain
One day you cannot convince your son to take a shower. It seems like almost the next day, he is taking several showers. Or maybe your daughter suddenly becomes very concerned about her appearance and is unwilling to relinquish her hold on the bathroom. What is happening?
There are obvious physical changes that you see in your child during puberty, but some of the most intense changes are actually happening in their brain. I take every available opportunity to teach parents that during puberty, your child’s brain enters a period of very rapid development much like what happened when they learned to walk and talk. The result is an obvious difference in the way they look at life and how they look at themselves.
There is a part of the brain behind the forehead that is called the prefrontal cortex. It is assigned the tasks of planning, impulse control, focus, and self-awareness among other tasks. Until puberty, this part of the brain is under-developed and then there is rapid growth over the next several years. One of the outcomes of a maturing prefrontal cortex is a growing sense of self-awareness.
“Do I look stupid?”
“Am I fitting in?”
“What do I need to do to be accepted?”
These are some of the questions they are facing all day long.
Changes in Your Child’s Hormones
While the brain is rapidly developing during puberty, reproductive hormones are flooding their young bodies. The physical changes are obvious.
- Change in body odor
- An increase in their weight
- The shape of their body changes as muscle and fat is formed in new places
- Their skin changes as many kids are challenged by pimple formation
- Change in their height
Hormones also talk to neurons in the brain and you will notice changes in your child’s emotions and attitudes. They struggle to control impulses, anger, and hurt feelings.
Now when they look in the mirror what they see is weight gain, pimples and oily hair. Even though their friends are also facing these same challenges, your child will think they are the only ones who are going through this unpleasant experience.
What Can Parents Do To Promote a Healthy Body Image?
It is during these complex years of puberty that your child will establish his/her body image. They will struggle within the chasm between childhood and adulthood every day until they emerge as a young adult with their own convictions, personality and adult body. Later, they will refer to these years as the “awkward” years or maybe some other less pleasant descriptors.
So what can you do to help your child develop a healthy body image during these formative years?
1. Be sympathetic with their situation.
Realize they are insecure about the changes happening to them and uncertain about what is going to happen to them next. Do more listening and less directing. Never make fun of the physical or emotional changes you see.
2. Your opinion matters
Although your child might be telling you that your opinion does not count, this is very far from the truth. Your words will have the greatest impact on them as they form their body image during puberty.
3. Praise the positive
Look for opportunities to praise them for their creativity, insight, and good judgment rather than talking about physical changes whenever you can. Your positive words will go a long ways
4. Be open and accepting.
Create a home atmosphere that inspires openness and acceptance. I always encourage fun family meal times that your child can look forward to even though they might resist and be difficult. They need these “safe places” through this tumultuous time where they can hear positive comments about them.
5. Encourage health.
Media and peer pressure can cause considerable insecurity in your child about their own body. They will gain weight during puberty and this can be particularly concerning for your daughter. Encourage your child to eat healthy food, but try not to be overly concerned about their weight gain. Their body will slowly mature into an adult body, but the emotional scars can remain as a big hit on their body image.