Blame It On the H-H-H-O-R-M-O-N-E-S!
11/9/2012 12:00:00 PM
I remember in 5th grade Jenny. She was loud, fund, had big hair and some big boobs to match! Rocking a D-cup was not common and she often had to fight the stereotype of being “sexy” or “loose”! For goodness sake, she was only 10! So there was nothing sexual about her life. Nevertheless, she struggled with misconceptions – even from some parents – due to her ahead-of-time bust-line.
Nowadays, it’s less common for girls to not have breasts and other signs of maturity early on. As I teach and mentor teens, most of them are rocking grown-up bodies before they even hit freshman year. So what gives? We have heard for years about girls hitting puberty early, obesity being a contributing factor. Just weeks ago, it was revealed our boys are showing signs of puberty, too! In a Fox article, Dr. Jennifer Landa pointed out the one word culprit to blame.
The FDA currently allows six hormones in the food supply, including sex hormones that can accelerate the age at which puberty occurs. The obesity epidemic plays a role as well because estrogens are made and stored in fat tissue. So what can you do right now? Dr. Landa changing a few everyday habits:
1. Go green. Choosing organic foods or, even better, shopping at the local farmers market will cut down on the chemical exposure and processing of your food. Cut down on the chemicals in your home by cleaning with natural substances, like vinegar and lemon juice. These are equally effective and non-toxic.
2. Read product labels. Spend time reading labels when choosing foods, household cleaners, shampoos, soaps and cosmetics. Avoid products with a lengthy chemical list and be on the lookout for the most common culprits of bodily harm, like parabens, ingredients ending in “-eth,” sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate, triclosan and triethanolamine (TEA).
3. Exercise. Get your child involved in an active lifestyle. Take walks together as a family, encourage participation in recreational sports, take your kids to jump rope or play tag at the park. Physical activity can help your child with weight management and further reduce exposure to hormones.
Charles Wibbelsman, MD, chief of adolescent medicine at Kaiser Permanente advises up parents to make sure we reinforce their positive self-image. He suggests parents say things like, “Everybody goes through puberty. You just started early.” Maybe “It’s important for you to take care of yourself — and I’m here to help.” And address mood swings in girls: “At certain times you may have confusing feelings. This is normal. You may feel crazy but you are not.” (We know those moody girls!) He adds even if your child is 6, it is not too early to start talking about love and relationships.. By answering with truthful, simple information, you can let your child know they can talk openly with you now and throughout puberty.
Be aware of their social circle, too. Older kids might want to befriend them because of the way they looks, even though your child may be much younger than they are socially and emotionally.. A study in 2007 showed that the age and behavior of children’s social groups played a strong role in whether children with precocious puberty got involved in using drugs or alcohol. As a parent, you can set household rules that will protect your child, including the age of the friends.
My sidebar? We must be engaged in their lives and ensure their safety. This includes how they dress, media habits, cell phone and social media outlets. That is for any kid – early puberty or not. But when kids look older, there’s always that chance of the pervert who would violate them sexually – through words or action. And we cannot allow that to happen. It’s hard enough for our youth in this society so the last thing they need is to be left with mental or emotional scars, being mistreated simply because they look a certain way.
To sum it up? Treat them like a girl or like a boy – even if they look like a woman or man.