Puberty and your Child: How Parents can help the Right Way

The goal of the  International Adolescent Health Week, is for all parents, teachers, advocates, and caregivers focus on the health and well-being of our adolescents. The theme this year is “Adolescent Resilience in the face of a Pandemic”. An IGLive discussion was held on Monday, March 22nd, 2021, themed; Preparing Children for Puberty: what parents need to know. The discussion was between Yetty Williams, parenting coach and founder @lagosmums, and Sherese Ijewere, a nutrition consultant, founder @caribhealth; on ensuring the health and wellbeing of our teenagers.

Watch the full replay of the conversation on LagosMums IGTV HERE

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Here is Sherese Ijewere’s introduction and take on puberty in children

My name is Sherese Ijewere, I’m the CEO of Carib health; we are medical and nutrition consultants that focus holistically on reversing disease. So whether it’s diabetes, blood pressure, any lifestyle disease, we are there to help you reverse them, in a natural way of course.

We’ve seen quite a few things of concern regarding our children on puberty coming in very early. Nowadays, we see the onset of puberty between the ages of 9 and 16. Before that, it used to be from maybe age 15, to even age 20. That’s before industrialization and commercialization came into place. But now, believe it or not, we are seeing puberty from as young as seven years old.

Young girls get into a stage of development, two years before the period starts, like, breast budding, and so on; and if we’re seeing puberty from age seven, that means your child at age 5 is showing signs of development going into that early puberty. And I think at five, they’re babies, who are playing with their dolls.

When it comes to sex education, parents need to teach their children the body parts from an early age and name them according to the scientific name. It is important not to use any code names, because that also confuses them.

Yetty Williams reiterated Sherese’s take on puberty; how she heard of a horrible story of a woman who found bruises on her child while giving her a bath. The mum then found out that the nanny has been abusing her child. It is important for parents to be as involved as possible; even when you have domestic staff. 

Importance of Parents as First teachers

Sherese discusses the importance of parents as first teachers…

It is so important that the parents are the first teacher of the child because I find that many parents depend on the school system. Whenever they get around to teaching the child in school, the children in the class have already told your child certain things. So you should be the first teacher. And I think it’s really important that yes, as a mom to be a part of their bathing routine, and getting them to bed as well. So right before the child starts development, you will see the menstrual cycle; that development starts two years before the actual menstruation starts.

It is so important that the parents are the first teacher of the child Click To Tweet

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When children as young as 7 start their period early it causes a bit of distraction and separation for the child. Separation from their friends, because they no longer look like their friends. Additionally, you find also that that child may start shying away just from being social and may go towards the phone a bit more where they’re seeing people who look like them, just so that they can relate to them.

What are we doing as parents, that’s causing our children to start puberty early?

Yetty Williams asked Sherese this question. Here is her response…

So industrialization started years and years ago; and before that, we found that adolescents started their period,  maybe at age 16 to age 19. But of course, as we started with commercialization, process foods, packaged foods and fast foods, we saw the numbers coming down each year.

According to a study done by The Nutrition Foundation, they found a link between the start and end of periods. It’s one thing to start early, it’s another thing to know on the other end, that you will enter menopause earlier. So they found that those who were 10 years old or younger, had menopause from age 40 to age 45. Whereas prior the menopausal age would be 55 to maybe age 58.

Read Also [Why Girls Are Starting Puberty Earlier ]

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Now if our girls are starting their periods at age seven, that also means earlier menopause. Click To Tweet

Early Periods and Early Menopause

Now if our girls are starting their periods at age seven, that also means earlier menopause.

So we’re looking at foods that are processed; dairy, meat, foods that are grown with estrogen, progesterone, and so many different growth hormones that are given to animals now to get fattened up and mature.

We are seeing children whose blood sugar is high at age 10 and 11; which is very concerning because you see that their body is also growing at that pace.

So when you come in, what we do is we look at the food that you’re eating, we try and put you on a more natural diet and try and get you out exercising and being active; before you know it your child will understand so much that they will want to conform. 

I had an 8-year-old and she was 77 kg. Her mom was very concerned, so we started looking at some of the things she was eating, and this was at the root of the situation. So we as parents have to tune in to what we’re feeding them.

Adult Diseases in Children

It’s not just girls, we’re also seeing boys. They may come in for just a nutrition check, checking if they have any deficiencies, because that’s one of the programs and tests that we offer. And when they come in, just their BMI alone sets off a red flag; so if they have a blood test is done, such as the cholesterol test, you see that the cholesterol is high in a teenager, and that can then lead to heart disease.

We’re also seeing from the American Dietetic Nutrition Association, statistics of teenagers with high cholesterol clogged arteries. And if parents don’t pay attention to that, and try and reverse those symptoms, then yes, you can get a heart attack at a very young age.

Nowadays, with the pandemic, a lot of children are playing video games. And if we don’t curtail that, put a schedule for the video games; before you know it, they’ll just become machines or robots to their computers and phones. So As parents, we have to put a time limit on these things; get the children outside, get them in the sun, get them to drink water, have them also take responsibility for what’s going on with them.

Parents need to be intentional, your children don’t have to like your rules, but they have to understand and respect your rules. – Yetty Williams

Your children don't have to like your rules, but they have to understand and respect your rules. Click To Tweet

Things parents need to start to consider

What are things that are on the rise and the things parents need to keep in mind raising children hitting puberty?

In our centre, we teach about the five roots of wellness; which are spiritual, mindset, nutrition, lifestyle, and environment. So you must have a conversation with your children from a young age, also remember, we’re the teachers. For example, let’s say girls, as mums, are we making sure that our children are washing their underwear. Right now a lot of children, at age 10, 12, 13, don’t know how to wash their underwear; somebody else is washing them. And when they are in, boarding school or they go to university, they’re a little bit lost because they’re on their own. 

When it comes to the menstrual cycle as well, make sure that our girls are washing their underwear. And if you’re wearing a pad, make sure you’re changing that pad at least four times a day.

The mums have made the bodily fluids that come out of your own body, kind of like a disgusting thing. Rather they should  explain to the children that these are clean fluids that come out; it is once it gets to oxidize and bacteria get into that area, that an odour may come up. So having that conversation about hygiene is important.

Getting the Right Product for your Childen to use

Yetty stated the more frequent use of chemical products has a negative impact. So how can parents know what is right to use and what about the use of antiperspirant vs. deodorant?

When it comes to sanitary napkins, there are different ones on the market. You want to make sure that you’re reading the ingredients, and you’re looking for 100% organic cotton pads. Now they have quite a few options, they have the disposable pads, and 100% organic pads. You can also choose to use a recyclable pad, it’s also better for the environment.

For deodorants and antiperspirants, you want to make sure that you your child is using a deodorant rather than antiperspirant. Your child can start using deodorants from maybe age 11, because giving a seven-year-old, a chemical to put under the arm is a bit too early.

However, you can also use something as natural as lemon or lime to take away the bacteria. Additionally you could mix a little baking soda and lime and dap in the underarm. 

Facial Skincare for Children

With the hormones changing, the estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, so many things going on hormonally in the body;  sometimes you do see acne start coming out. But now acne can be as a result of the diet. So if you’re eating a lot of oily food, processed foods, whether it’s bread, butter, biscuits; those things can contribute to acne. 

Sugary foods also contribute, because I do remember having a young man come to my office, and he had a lot of breakouts. But when I asked him about hydration, he said didn’t drink water, that he doesn’t like water. And once he connected that, if I drink water and eat fruits, this will disappear, then his face started clearing up; so water and diet are important.

If you’re using a lot of perfume soap, that can also irritate; if you’re using a lot of oil on the face, and it’s coming down on the bed and you’re not frequently changing the bed cases, it can contribute; just so they also understand some of the contributing factors.

Yetty also added that paying attention to the ingredients of the product is important; and to teach this to our children, to pay attention to labels at an early age too.

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Going through Menstrual pain

Sometimes as mums, what we go through, we’re passing it down to our children. For example, if you are a mum who has a lot of menstrual pain and your child has seen you go through the pain they might be fearful. But be careful not to project and say things like “when your period comes, you’ll probably have the pain as well”. This is because, psychologically, if somehow, your child has linked the two, they will start experiencing pain as well.

So it’s good to separate things; if your child is starting their period, just take it as it comes, help them to prepare, get them to drink water and eat healthy meals. But do  not set them up for having pain because you had pain.

Having the Sex Talk

Yetty stated that parents can’t be permissive or quiet when it comes to sex-related topics. She asks about Sherese’s perspective on parents who are uncomfortable about having the sex talk. 

When you have your children going to a coed school, it’s important to address that early, probably from primary school. Just so that those children who are exposed to certain things, who are watching certain things don’t corrupt your child.

So helping them understand that sex is between a man and a woman; then taking it from the Christian background that’s the avenue that we need to get in. And help to explain to them, you know what can result in both genders having sex, such as a baby and the responsibility that comes afterwards.

Watch the full replay of the conversation on LagosMums IGTV HERE

Read Also [How To Help When Your Daughter Starts Her Period]

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