Some children will be taller, others will be more developed, some boys will have changing voices while others will not. "This is all a normal part of puberty, but it might appear a little more sudden," said Dr. Josefson.
April 19, 2021, 5:23 p.m. ET
Families should talk to children about how these changes are normal, how every body changes, but not in harmony. Dr. Coble suggested, "Start with the basics, how do you eat, how do you sleep?"
If your children have been truly isolated, remember to help them recover – perhaps by encouraging them to spend socially distant time outside with a good friend. Pandemic or no pandemic, children and families need reliable information about puberty. Dr. Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a pediatrician on developmental behavior at Texas Children's Hospital and Associate Professor at Baylor College of Medicine, sends families to Amaze.org with videos for children and the Healthy Bodies Toolkit website developed by Vanderbilt University.
Even in times without a pandemic, life is often more difficult for early developers, who remain emotionally and intellectually the same age as their peers, but who may look significantly older. Dr. Carol Ford, professor of pediatrics and director of adolescent medicine at Philadelphia Children's Hospital, said the children who develop early need more and more support, and that may be especially true now when the changes could be more pronounced after a year interval away. Parents need to be ready to have concrete and detailed discussions on topics such as personal hygiene (yes, your sweat smells different) and the developments ahead (menstruation, wet dreams).
Some adolescent specialists have raised questions about whether the emotional intensity of the lockdown and the pandemic year might actually have contributed to early puberty. Dr. Spinks-Franklin said, "Some of my girls started their periods during the pandemic." She wondered if stress had anything to do with it or if it was just a regular development.
A preliminary analysis from Italy published in March found that referrals for early puberty among girls increased significantly in the first six months of the pandemic compared to the same half of 2019. From March to September 2020, 246 children, almost all girls, were referred to the Bambino Gesù children's hospital in Rome to investigate suspected precocious puberty, compared with 118 in the same months of 2019. The authors asked questions about possible links with Use stress, higher caloric intake, and increased screening to be addressed with further research.
If you think your child may be developing prematurely, make an appointment for a personal exam and ask the pediatrician to discuss issues related to puberty and body image. After the 10-year-old's mother raised the issue, Dr. McFadden with her patient and reiterated the message that the changes in the body during puberty are normal and healthy. She talked to the mother about talking to the child's teachers. "So there will be a group of people looking for her when she comes back to personal school." And she and the mother discussed the risks that can come with early development in girls who may be older than them or to whom they may be victims.