Many a parent witnesses a sweet, innocent and loving child seemingly transform overnight once puberty begins. Despite the talks provided by parents and educators, children cannot help but experience psychological changes due to the physical growth and hormonal fluctuations that occur. Understanding how puberty causes a psychological impact on impressionable youngsters equips parents with the knowledge of what to expect and how to guide their child through the process.
Body Image and Self-Esteem
Peer pressure and the need to fit in play a major role in the self-esteem of youngsters. As noticeable bodily changes take place during puberty, pre-teens are commonly self-conscious. As girls often feel that being physically attractive means being slender, rounded hips and the added curves created by body fat may cause panic and excessive dieting. Of the thousands of girls surveyed, more than half expressed poor self-esteem and a dissatisfaction with their physical appearance. Boys often do not physically mature as quickly as girls. In addition they have to contend with embarrassing vocal changes. Adults can help youngsters by offering reassurance that all must journey through this phase and the changes are normal.
Though appearing more physically mature, the brain of a teen has not yet reached maturity. While fighting for recognition as an adult, teens often display immature and irresponsible behavior based on the fact that their cognitive skills lack the experience and knowledge required to make rational, well thought out decisions. At this point, the ends may still justify the means without any thought to possible future consequences. At this stage of development, it is not unusual for teens to have poor impulse control, become irresponsibly spontaneous and act selfish. Mental immaturity combined with hormone imbalances commonly also leads to irrational mood swings that may range from anger or rage to uncontrollable crying, anxiety and depression.
Need for Independence
Trapped between childhood and adulthood, adolescents begin aggressively fighting for the right to make their own decisions and gain recognition as adults. During this phase, they may more closely associate their thoughts and beliefs with peers rather than with family values in an attempt to break free of their parents. The desire for independence and a lack of mental maturity may lead to rebellion or experimentation with alcohol, drugs or sexual promiscuity.
Between going to school full-time, engaging in school programs, working part-time and cramming in social activities, young teens often have disrupted sleep schedules. Additionally, hormonal shifts add to the problem by tampering with the body's natural circadian rhythm. Instead of winding down at sunset, teens experience a burst of energy, which negates the need for sleep. Morning comes and teens may have difficulty awakening or attempt to catch up on sleep during the weekend. However, sleep deprivation only fuels emotional distress while hampering cognitive function.