Dear Dr. Bill,
My 10-year-old son is starting into puberty and has become really unhappy about everything. It seems like he’s always arguing with someone — my wife and me, his siblings, friends, teachers, you name it. He went from a generally happy child who used to laugh all the time to a fairly miserable kid. What should we do?
When a child enters puberty, the physical, emotional, and relational changes can be stressful-not only for the boy or girl, but for their entire family. Also, because your son is entering puberty fairly early for a male, this can make the changes even more challenging.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, boys start puberty anywhere from 10-14 years of age, with most completing the process maturity by 15 to 16.
Boys who start the process very early may feel a sense of shame or embarrassment, as their bodies are showing obvious signs of adulthood while all of their peers still look like 10-year-old boys. Those who enter puberty late in the game also face adjustment issues. For these kids, all of their friends have begun to look like young men, but their bodies are still immature. They can begin to dread going to P.E. class and the boys’ locker room.
You can help your son through this adjustment process in two ways. First, provide him with plenty of medically accurate information so that he will understand what is happening with his body and that this time of change is only temporary. Assure him that even though he may feel like he’s going crazy, he’s not!
Secondly, provide him with plenty of love, support, and encouragement. Extend an extra measure of grace to him as he experiences emotional ups and downs and give him space when he needs it. At the same time, let him know you won’t tolerate aggressive, destructive, or disrespectful behavior in your home.
My friend Dr. Walt Larimore has written an excellent book on this. It’s entitled “God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Teen.” You learn more at drwalt.com.
Thanks for writing, Rick. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.
Click here for the audio version of this article.