Talk to your child
Some children seem to grow faster than others. This is even more true if your child has central precocious puberty (CPP). It is sexual maturity that begins before the age of 8 for girls or 9 for boys.
Puberty can affect how your child looks, feels and behaves. And when it happens too soon, children can be confused or embarrassed. You and your doctor can help talk to them through the process.
Here are some topics to discuss.
Often it is not a medical condition that causes CPP. It’s just an early start for a natural part of life. Jami Josefson, MD, an endocrinologist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, says this is something you should tell your child.
“They may be the first to experience body changes, and that’s okay,” says Josefson. “Let the kids know there’s nothing wrong with them, that’s how it goes. Soon everyone will have these changes too.
Josefson suggests parents read about puberty with their child. There are many books to choose from, but she likes Take care of yourself series by the American Girl doll company.
Alla Vash-Margita, MD, chief of pediatric and adolescent gynecology at Yale Medicine, agrees that your child needs to know what’s going on in their body. You can adapt your interviews according to the level of maturity and the age of your child.
In his practice, children 7 or older usually understand the word puberty, but a 4-year-old may not understand it. Thus, for young children, she will say that they go through a “transition” from their childhood to adolescence.
Vash-Margita, who treats transgender girls and some boys, says she also explains everything from breast development and growth spurts to pubic hair and menstruation. Sometimes she will use teaching aids.
“I have a lot of pictures in my office, so I show them what a child’s body looks like and the body of a girl who has gone through puberty.”
It’s fairly common for children with CPP to take medications called puberty blockers, Vash-Margita says. One of the main reasons is that early puberty shortens the window children have to grow. Treatment can prevent the brain from telling the pituitary gland to make the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. If taken before the end of puberty – which doctors determine based on bone growth – the drugs can halt or reverse the maturation process until your child is older.
Medical tests and treatments can be a bit scary for children. So Vash-Margita tells them why their puberty is early and why they are going to stop it. She uses illustrations to show how the brain, ovaries and uterus work together.
Then she points out: “In your case, the brain started sending signals to your ovaries, and your ovaries started producing another hormone, and this hormone is making all these changes in your body, and we can give you medicine. to block this process. “
It can be difficult for very young children to grasp all of this. So Vash-Margita sometimes tells children that medicine will slow down certain bodily changes and “allow you to look like your classmates and friends.”
Girls who develop earlier than their friends may become self-conscious. “Breast bud development when you’re 4 or 5 years old is stressful,” says Vash-Margita.
In addition to body changes, children with CPP may experience mood swings.
Talk to your doctor if your child is not ready for puberty.
“One of the goals of therapy is to prevent girls from having a monthly menstrual cycle,” says Josefson. “Which, when the girls are really young, can be a challenge to understand emotionally and also from a hygiene point of view.”
Josefson says puberty blockers can “pause everything to stop kids from growing and looking older than their age.”
And let your child know they can come see you if they feel bad. Also, be sure to ask them how their studies and friendships are going. Contact a mental health professional any time you or your child needs additional help. Josefson says a social worker or therapist can help your family overcome some of the fears and anxieties associated with CPP.
Keep in mind that the CPR might be a little harsher for transgender children — those who don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. Josefson says most children with CPP are comfortable with their gender identity. But precocious puberty can be very confusing or undesirable to those who aren’t.
Telling others about CPP
It is important to have honest discussions with your child and their doctor. But that kind of information is private, says Josefson, and you don’t have to share the details with anyone.
If your extended family or your child’s teachers bring up the subject, “you just say the child is big for his age or that’s how development happens in our family,” she says. “It’s none of their business.”