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Parents Can Ease "Growing Pains"
By Marcela Cartagena
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Acne, awkward limbs, body growth, hormonal rushes and moodiness are some recognizable signs puberty brings to children and parental communication could make a difference to ease children's emotional and physical stress.
"Children from ages 9 to 16, embark on an amazing adventure at puberty," said Linda Patterson, health education specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "This is when the brain begins to send signals to a child's reproductive system to develop."
Patterson said the changes that occur as a result of these brain signals are only one part of becoming a man or a woman.
Children not only experience radical physical changes during the puberty years, they also worry about their friends' acceptance, body image, fashion, "fitting in," and figuring out who they are.
Dr. Louise Davis, a child family and development specialist with MSU's Extension Service, said children during puberty usually urge for acceptance of their peers.
"They also experience emotional changes that may lead to moodiness and insolation," Davis said.
Davis said some children can reveal feelings of isolation and confusion through nonverbal communication. Others will commonly avoid communication and some will even lock themselves in their bedrooms.
"It is important for parents to give their children privacy, but if they lock themselves in their bedrooms for too long, they are telling you something is wrong," Davis said. "Parents should try to talk and listen as much as possible in a situation like this."
Parents' love and trust of their children should be shown from infancy, Davis said. This way, parents can help their children build self-esteem. It is essential to remind them of their positive qualities and gifts.
Davis said physical aspects also affects self-esteem. If a child is different from the rest -- too fat or too short, for example, they can become the target of cruel jokes.
"Jokes referring to physical appearance can lower some children's self-esteem," Davis said. "But it is the parents' responsibility to guide their children to love themselves and accept their bodies the way they are."
Davis said helping the child create an internal acceptance can lead them to leave material possessions and external qualities aside and focus more on the spiritual part of their lives.
"Avoid statements like, `You'll get over it,' or, `When I was your age,' or, `It's not as bad as you think it is'," David said. "Instead, remind children of your love and faith in their abilities.