Jones conducted a research that gave insights to the challenges boys face when they begin puberty earlier or later than their peers. Boys who go through puberty early [when compared to their mates especially within their circle] tend to have greater self-assurance. They tend to be rated as more attractive and more masculine, and they tend to be more popular with their peers. These are all bonuses for boys who go through puberty early. But it also turns out that the boys who go through puberty early tend to have increased substance use, more delinquency, and more psychological issues. So, there are some pros and cons to going through puberty early. This should serve as a guide for us as parents in gaining insights into the peculiar struggles our boys face with respect to their changing bodies and how we can act as guides as they go through.
As a high school class teacher for a number of years, I have personally observed my shorter male students appear more troublesome than their taller peers. At the time, I had no scientific explanation for such segmentation but I was curious. Here’s what I found. For boys who go through puberty late, they tend to be socially awkward. They tend to misbehave in class a bit more than boys who go through early, possibly because they’re trying to get some attention, or trying to set themselves apart. And they do display some anxious behaviours. But, it’s not just the immediate consequences of early and late puberty that are important. There are some later consequences in adulthood that seem to be related to going through puberty early or late.
For boys who go through puberty early, later on, they tend to be more domineering but also more responsible. They tend to have a lot of self-control, but that can also make them rigid and a little bit conforming. They tend to be more advanced in their career but have some difficulty coping with stress, and they can tend to have more intimacy difficulties. Many studies show that most pre-adolescents want nothing more than to fit in so, anything that makes them feel conspicuous tends to have a subtle but definite long-lasting effect on mental health. It could also be that the anxious things they learn in the social hierarchy in high school do not work serve them very well the adult world. So, these boys have to come up with new ways of dealing with other people and social interactions if they’re going to participate in the adult world.
For boys who go through puberty late, later on in life, they tend to have a good sense of humour, clearer insight into issues, a sophisticated understanding of themselves, and good intimate relationships. It could be that not being the top of the social totem pole actually helps them out later in life. As parents, we need to be well equipped with the tools for navigating the 21st-century adolescent social space because what tended to work in our time, might be redundant in this clime.
How do we help our adolescents through this period?
- Listen: We should be curious about what’s going on in our teen’s life this period. Asking direct questions might not be as effective as simply sitting back and listening. Teens are more likely to be open with their parents if they don’t feel pressured to share information. Remember even an offhand comment about something that happened during the day is her way of reaching out, and you’re likely to hear more if you stay open and interested — but not prying. This gives you a clear picture of the struggles they might be dealing with or insights into possible problems that might arise.
- Participate in TRAIN UP: There is an alarming outcry by many mental health organizations over the sudden surge in reported cases among teenagers. If nothing is done about this, the future of our society is in jeopardy. TRAIN-UP is a capacity-building exposure that unveils unconventional but foolproof strategies for adolescent engagement in the 21st-century technology-driven social space by equipping Parents, Teachers, Administrators and Counsellors (PTAC) with tools for creative adolescent management. We designed TRAIN UP as a free resource to ensure that all parents have access to cutting edge knowledge for unconventional parenting in the 21st century. In this course, you learn how to create a psychologically safe haven for your children especially adolescents among others.
- Validate their feelings. It is often our weakness as parents to try to solve problems for our teens and adolescents or to downplay their disappointments. But saying something like “She wasn’t right for you anyway” after a romantic disappointment can feel dismissive. Instead, show them that you understand and empathize by reflecting the comment back: “Wow, that does sound difficult.” And if possible share your heartbreak experience(s) and how you dealt with it (them) without outrightly telling them what to do or not.
- Be Trustworthy: Yes that simple. Be worthy of being trusted! It is often easier for an adolescent to listen to another adult who they feel is on their side even if that adult is passing across the same message their parents have been trying to pass across for months to no avail. I know right?! If you recall your adolescence, it should come very clear to you how you would rather listen to another adult you trust and respect over your parents even though they were both saying the same thing. What’s the difference? Adolescents are emotional creatures. It means, to transmit instructions and values to them, you must target their emotional core. Many parents find this difficult because we have been wired to parent conventionally. We are in unconventional times, it will take an unconventional means to target your adolescent’s emotional core. You child will remain emotionally receptive to any adult who targets this core. Unfortunately, our teenagers many times believe that we [parents] are not on their side. It is one of the perks of conventional parenting and also a major reason that parenting teenagers seem tough! While it is very tempting to want to make them ‘understand’ why they act the way they do or to show them scientific reports on what’s ‘wrong’ with them, it’s best you place them in the hands of professionals who can in partnership with you, guide them.