I had an very pertinent radio interview tagged “Discussing puberty and what to expect”. This discussion with Doctor Rahmat.M was timely as we discovered via research feedback conducted in-house that many parents were not particularly well equipped to handle the onset of puberty in their children. This enabled me properly prepare myself for this interview. Without wasting much time, find below the questions and my feedback on those. I hope it arms some parents out there with enough information required to guide their children through the phase of “Puberty“.
Q1: Welcome to the show. Mr Temple Obike, could you introduce yourself to our listeners?
Thank you Dr Rahmat for having me on the programme. My name is Obike Temple and I graduated from the Cell Biology and Genetics Department of the University of Lagos over a decade and half ago. I’m a certified Life, Marriage and Family Therapist from the Institute of Counseling Nigeria. A certified Hypnotherapist from the Karen Wells Institute in the USA and currently running my John Maxwell Leadership Development Program in the US as well.
My passion for human thought processes began 17 years ago in my University days when I and a couple of friends in our second year began the Roots and Shoots Movement in Nigeria, an initiative pioneered by popular primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall. We carried out community projects, helped out at orphanages and visited slums within and outside the Lagos metropolis. On these visits, we would speak to rape victims, unhappy people (what we aptly call depression now) and drug addicted individuals. I enjoyed these because it enabled me study these people up close and with this I came to understand that for most of them, their thought processes affected their self-perception and this in turn determined their decision-making. This meant that if an Individuals thought process could be positively aided, a fairly awesome outcome could be arrived at in life. That was it for me. With this interest in humans and how they think, I was also able to understand that if i could fairly predict human behavior to a high degree, i could build other businesses on top of this knowledge model. So I created an advertising and marketing agency,a production company amongst many other business pursuits on this “human model”. These have grown to become award winning companies in their sector.
So Doctor that’s me in a nutshell.
Q 2: What are the hormonal and psychological changes that are happening to both males and females during the ages of puberty and into early adulthood —
Puberty as a topic is like that journey we all take and arrive at the same destination called MATURITY. Some travel in first class with lots of guidance while others travel in a bus discovering every new location when the driver stops the bus for you to stretch your legs. Puberty is an exciting period but many parents do not think so. Making out time to learn about what changes to expect can make it easier to for both the parent and the child.
Averagely, puberty in girls happens by age 10 and for boys by age 11. However it’s becoming the norm for puberty to start up earlier than anticipated. It’s called precocious puberty. This drops the onset time for puberty to somewhere around 7 years for girls and 9 years for boys. I’ve never seen a more uncomfortable period for 80% of the parents I’ve spoken to and this is simply because no one explained puberty to them either and you pass on what you were taught or what you were willing to go out and learn. Which is what most of us had to do for ourselves and still what we intend to do today.
During puberty, the more obvious changes are the physiological. In both men and women we start noticing hair growth in pubic regions, a strong body odor. Specifically for women menstruation begins and breast buds start developing. In the male anatomy, a deepening of the voice is one of the indicators.
ON THE INSIDE
Every physiological change during puberty for both boys and girls is controlled by factors we cannot see. These factors are caused by hormones. I know not everyone studied sciences so I’ll explain what the hormones are. Hormones in your body are like errrm, okay hormones are like messengers in your body. Their job is to travel through your body’s blood stream and inform tissues and organs affecting various processes such as digestion, growth and development.
Once it’s time for puberty, a part of the brain called the hypothalamus starts releasing Gonadtropin releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone is then going to travel to a part of the brain called the pituitary gland. This journey is a visit of one hormone ( GnRH) to unlock the door to the hormone control centre in the body. The pitituary gland is a little gland located under our brain). It produces hormones which control other glands throughout our body. Stay with me. There are now two puberty hormones released called the Luteinizing hormone and the Follicle stimulating hormone . Almost immediately a group of hormones called the adrenal androgens kick in and stimulate hair growth.
Now for the boys ,
Boys: Hormones travel through the bloodstream to the testes (testicles) and give the signal to begin production of sperm and the hormone testosterone. Their penis and testes become larger, arms, hands,feet and legs begin to grow faster than other parts of their body. Shoulders become broad and he starts packing on some weight and muscle. Lastly their voice crack.
Girls: Hormones go to the ovaries (the two oval-shaped organs that lie to the right and left of the uterus) and trigger the maturation and release of eggs and the production of the hormone estrogen, which matures a female’s body and prepares her for pregnancy. The breast development signals puberty for females, the buds and tissues around her nipples suddenly get larger, become less firm, darker underarm and pubic hairs appear, She then experiences a rapid growth a year or so after the first signs of puberty. Her body will begin building up fat around the hips and thighs giving her the feminine physique. Arms, feet, hands and legs get bugger and lastly is the menarche also known as menstruation.
Q3: Based on your knowledge and experience, how do we begin our enable children to process their emotions as they enter puberty and early adulthood —
In my 5 years of private practice I’ve been opportuned to notice emotions ranging from fear to overt excitement. Children with older siblings I have noticed tend to be a bit more receptive of the process. Almost expectant if I’m honest because they have seen this modeled in front of them by older siblings of the same sex. Which sort of makes then authorities in the university of puberty.
However, I’d like to speak more on those who need quite a bit of guidance and parental support through the emotional, physical but most importantly psychological aspects of this change.
Physically: Many children lose their childish charm during this process and appear a bit awkward. Most teenagers sprout pimples on their face and this affects their self-confidence. Body odor is another issue that has to be addressed by parents and guardians. Moving from a kid who bathing times was another opportunity for playing to an individual who now needs to scrub thoroughly, learn to shave and apply anti-pespirants is a radical shift and this is the time you reap the benefits of “a family freedom of expression culture”. Both or one of the parents should be who the kid comes to first IF (and I repeat) .. IF they trust you. That is one of the first signs that you have parented well pre-puberty. You have to explain what is happening to your child and constantly validate them to keep their self-esteem & confidence levels up there.
Emotionally:Children maturing emotionally will become sexually curious. Most parents freeze up on this part because they weren’t taught by their own parents. They dabbled and stumbled their way to experience and so are faced with the fear that their own children may also follow this path. So rather than be there to help their children process their emotions, they take on the roles of watch-dogs.
Watching, suspecting, quizzing these kids to the extent that they push them away. My advice to every parent out there is that This is the time you step up and be their best friend (Assuming you’ve created this environment from the start). If you haven’t, you do not have much time so you must listen carefully to a programme like this to learn. They need to understand that nothing is too embarrassing to discuss. Let your Boys discuss the release they had while sleeping and let your daughters freely tell you their nipples are becoming ticklish. If you appear uncomfortable, they will become uncomfortable and worried about it too.
Psychologically: Be their shrink.. Take them through a journey into the mind of the opposite sex so they also understand what is happening to their age-mates of the opposite sex. Your son before age 12 should at least understand what his nocturnal emissions are, Your daughter should understand what the new bodily changes are and the smell. This way she understand it has nothing to do with her. This talk isn’t going to be a one-time expose but a series of discussions touching on all important points.
For parents, this is the point you re-assure and re-validate them that all is moving according to plan. If possible, selectively share your own stories with them. This is a technique I usually include for parents-child bonding sessions. Just be accessible to your kids before they hit puberty. Then proceed to learn all you can about this phase after which you simply take on the amazing responsibility of teaching them. It’s not as scary as most believe it is. I personally see it as a gift, an opportunity to at least be part of a hallmark period of your child’s life. Guide them but allow them establish their own identity with new friends and experiences, Let them explore leadership positions and generally get a feel for the consequences of good and bad deciscions.
Lastly, In addition to the Psychological, Physical and Emotional Support, I want to quickly touch on the social life.
Social Offline and Online Life: I urge parents to be very aware of this aspect of their child’s life until they are at least 21 because asides from the positive sides of both offline and online social life, we know (bullying, sexual predators, peer pressure) are valid fears. At this point if you are still teaching the child to let you into their lives or trying to earn their trust my question is “What have you been doing all along”? It’s not too late but these relationships could have been forged a lot earlier. If you can’t seem to connect with them, maybe you should consider seeking professional help on this.
Over the years I have heard a number of complaints from teenagers regarding their parents and on reverse-engineering these complaints I arrived at some advice for parents that could help them be of more value to the teenager and perhaps create a lasting bond way into their adult years.
1 Respect Your Child. They are becoming an adult and that comes with a struggle for individuality. Lots of deciscions to make, insecurities to battle and so much. Our job as parents is to be supportive and respect that
2 Put your parental ego in check. Always listen first to them even if they are ranting. After they have relaxed, then talk to them.
3 Position Yourself as Their Filter. The crazy haircut, that request for a nose piercing, mis-fitted clothing etc. are all their ways of seeking self-expression. If they respect your opinion, you can talk them out of it. For the permanent deciscions like tattoos, discuss temporary alternatives.
4 Be Patient with them. Set up a family time from the beginning when everyone stays together. It could be for meals, TV, or just one hour daily. This is simply because your child who just hit puberty would suddenly require lots of time to themselves.
5 Name Names and be Explicit when Necessary. This is not the time to call a penis “Your Peepee” or tell your girl “you will have some blood come out for a few days then you’re fine.” Talk proper use of sanitary towels, explain bodily changes and all because if you don’t someone outside will. Many middle-aged women I’ve spoken to still hold on to painful memories of parents who were not there to properly guide them through puberty and beyond.
6 Support Yourself as a Parent. You have to understand that despite everything we’ve discussed, you cant have total control over your child’s choices. If drinking, drugs or violent behavior is something you’ve noticed in a child, rely on other family members for support, et your child to help with some chores to lighten the load on you and then make out time with your spouse to relax and discuss everything both of you have noticed about the child. Don’t loose yourself in the process of trying to get your child to turn out right.
Q4: Building Trust and relationships with your child that allows for open conversation.
Adults are simply children who have gone through the process of growing up. My first question for parents when it comes to building trust is this. What did your parents do or NOT DO that affected you positively or otherwise? Take those same answers and apply it to your parenting relationship with these kids.
If I want you to trust me doctor, the first thing you need to understand from me is that I also trust you. Your opinions, your decisions and your ability to arrive at decisions. A Harvard Business Review Article on trust said something interesting and I quote.
“Within one hour of birth, a human infant will draw her head back to look into the eyes and face of the person gazing at her. Within a few more hours, the infant turn her head in the direction of her mother’s voice. And, unbelievable as it may seem, it’s only a matter of hours before the infant can actually mimic a caretaker’s expressions.
This takes me to my first point.
Your Expressions As a Parent Matters: Your child is looking at you. They have been looking at you even before they hit puberty. Now it’s time to start talking to them like the young adult they are. Once your child notices you are irritated, uncomfortable or totally unaware on issues pertaining to puberty you lose them. They will either withdraw or seek someone else. For every parent currently caught up on this point, my professional advice is two-fold. One, You can either start learning everything you need to know about puberty or two, you can honestly tell your child you are not experienced in this but would want to learn with them. Then go and seek out a professional who can help both of you.
Talk to Them not AT Them: Most parents are so worried about their child making lifelong mistakes that they unknowingly become suspicious of their every move. What this does is that rather than communicating with their children, they almost become interrogatory when they discuss with them. This shift can affect parents trying to build trust and relationships with their children.
Respect their Privacy: Like I mentioned earlier, these kids are becoming adults. Now they’re trying to figure out their personality, Understand how their mind works and discover functional social skills. They need more time to themselves and you have to understand this. If this need for privacy becomes extreme, my advice is that you become very observant and quietly monitor them as they could be struggling with substance abuse, self-gratification practices, depression, internet/mobile addiction, anxiety and more. They need advice and support not to be left totally alone. The balance between respecting their privacy and getting involved is ensuring that you put ground rules that still revolve around family-centered activity.
Listen to your Child: This ties into the other point I mentioned on respect. When you respect someone, their opinion will matter. Once your child knows their opinions matter to you, they will be a bit more willing to have honest conversations with you not just in the by and now but throughout your entire life with them. One thing I’ve noticed with puberty talks with my daughter is that the more I listen to her, the more I don’t struggle to have a conversation. This has absolutely nothing to do with my training or line of work. It’s just a natural thing. “Your willingness to Understand their reasons for doing what they are doing will provide you with an opportunity to at least correct them. A talking child is one that can be worked upon.
Be Genuine and Model The Life You want them To Emulate: Be the man or woman you want these children to be. Parents I know how tough it could be having to be on your best behavior with the kids.. That’s the problem, you are trying to be, you don’t curse when they are there, you don’t smoke in front of them, you have to be super nice to others when they are in the car with you. Here’s what I do. I always imagine my wife, children and parents were there when it was time to do certain things. So if I couldn’t do it in front of them, then it shouldn’t be done. After a while I started getting used to some of those. We are all works in progress but I believe we can all do better once we set our minds to it.
Understand When They Usually want to Talk: Many clients would tell me they’ve tried talking to their kids but it never works. On meeting these children, the first thing that seems to come out is that parents always want them to talk at their own time. It doesn’t work that way. As parents, we almost need to become intuitive and understand when the right time and right place present themselves. For parents who have more than one child, understand that they are all different individuals who will process this period of their lives differently. Armed with this knowledge, it’s your job to not attempt a “Home Puberty Symposium”.
Answers by Obike Temple.
Temple Obike is a licensed marriage and family therapist, speaker, author and psychotherapist who has counseled over one thousand, two hundred clients comprising of couples, individuals, abuse victims (substance, physical, emotional and sexual) and grief-stricken clients. With over 70,000 in-counseling minutes (1,000+ hours) accrued in practice. He runs his private psychotherapy & counseling practice out of Lagos, Nigeria and has counseling centers in Abuja and Port-Harcourt. His practice also provides options for both online and on-site services.
His private practice has positively empowered lives through his online counseling, podcasts, free advisory services and free online materials. Readership of his articles also receive a growing number of visitors alongside subscriptions to his email newsletter at templeobike.com. His passion for empowering and uncovering the secrets to lifelong marriages and personal development led to his new book titled “Soul Bodega” available on amazon and across other online and traditional stores.
Never give up on yourself! You are a journey happening through various destinations.