When kids start to hit puberty, many aspects of their life begin to change, sometimes without much warning. Puberty begins anywhere between 8-13 years old with girls being on the younger end of the spectrum. Adults understand the physical changes that occur during puberty, but the mental changes that happen are very present as well. Mood swings are the most commonly discussed, but what isn’t as frequently discussed is the mental and emotional changes that often happen during this time frame as well.
As kids mature into preteens, teenagers, and adults, they begin to view the world through a new lens. They can cognitively understand more than they used to, they are able to grasp more abstract concepts, and they can understand and use sarcasm in a whole new way. This widening of their world view is exciting and fruitful, but it can also be terrifying to some. They may also have a wider understanding of school shootings, the dangers of driving in a car, or communicable diseases. These new realizations can be terrifying and bring about phobias, anxiety, or other mental health concerns.
The occurrence of mental health in puberty is undeniable, but that is not the most common experience. For most, it is a tumultuous time of change that also brings higher social pressure. They may find more fulfillment from spending time with friends or a deep desire to fit in through their clothes or hairstyle. Their new worldview may bring about new interests and passions, and they can engage in sarcastic or intellectual conversations in a way that is new and exciting. Having an adult in their life that normalizes their physical and mental changes is important, because to the child this is all new and isolating.
Puberty is also a great time for your child to focus on taking care of themselves. Most people understand that a preteen needs to shower more frequently than they used to and take different care of their body, but mental health self-care is also important. This can be a time when your child learns what they need to recharge and how often they need alone time as well as what they need physically. Puberty can be a new and challenging time, but it can also be a milestone that helps your child grow further into a healthy adult. Follow their lead, make sure they know that they’re normal, and give them room to grow physically, emotionally, and socially.
Sarah Carter is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor #6982 and is supervised by Brent Robery Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #100423.