Keep Talking
How to cope when the path to adulthood is accelerating.
(Diane Cassells)
This Guardian article on the early onset of puberty made my eyebrows shoot skywards. is it true that puberty is arriving earlier nowadays? 

I’ll tell you this much – we’re just about to turn that weird corner towards my daughter’s eighth birthday, and I’m petrified. Scientifically, yes, our children are maturing more quickly than we did. Many of the probable causes can be found in the research but, what I didn’t find whilst I was reading up on it was – how the hell do I cope with this?

I’m not saying we’re dealing with a full-throttled teenage tantrum here. I’m saying that the little signs of an independent person coming to terms with a changing scope of emotions are starting to, ever so slightly, appear.

I know I’m not alone in this – in conversation with a friend today, I realised that it’s something almost every other parent is seeing, but is almost afraid to admit. Not only is this physical change occurring within our children far earlier than expected but, the society we live in is so dramatically changed…that it’s everywhere. Our babies are being brought up in a world that’s online and instant – and that has both advantages and disadvantages.

When the "cool" bug bites

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and trying to remember the exact moment where I was suddenly aware, as a child, of who had the coolest sneakers and whether or not I was “thin enough to be cool”. I know – I was eleven, and it was a pair of “Gym and Dance” sneakers. Everyone had them and I wanted them so very much. At the time, though, my folks weren’t able to shell out for these fancy pants shoes, and I felt bereft over it. I got them, two years later, as a heartfelt birthday present, and just six months later everyone moved on to Nike. Damn.

But, how do I help my daughter cope in a world that’s bombarding her with all these messages and the way her mind processes things is becoming more complex? Do I turn the television off? Should I pick her up and run away to the mountains, hoping that the fresh air and quiet will bore her into a life of meaning? I can’t do either of those.

So, with my heart in my throat, I’ve resolved to talk about it. We’ve started picking up and naming incidents where it’s become apparent she’s thought it okay to be flippant. I’ve started to lay the foundations for the “big body talk” we’re going to have to have and I really started conversing with her about body image recently.

Why her body image? Because someone, somewhere, once told a friend of hers that they were fat. My daughter came home in tears, thinking that this was something to be concerned about. So I showed her Photoshop. I showed her magazines. I talked to her about eating disorders. I told her all about how I, at seven, got told I was fat and it affected me all my life…and that I didn’t want that for her. We spoke for hours, picking out parts of life that weren’t fair or kind, or necessary.

I know that the only way we’re ever going to get through this change…is to keep talking.

Has your child started showing signs of wanting to be cool?

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