On this week’s ‘Parenting’ segment, one parent asks how to address their child’s early puberty.
“My 11-year-old son has had underarm hair for the last year,” they told Moncrieff. “He has avoided swimming with friends and his swimming lessons because of this.”
“He took it upon himself to shave his armpits and when I copped it, he said it's because he doesn't want to be the only one with hair.”
The parent said their child doesn’t want to go through puberty yet and is uncomfortable with his body.
“Should I let him shave until he feels more comfortable with the underarm hair?” the parent asked. “He suggested a swim top for the water but I'm wondering if I'm encouraging a sense of embarrassment with his body when he is already prone to being self-conscious.”
Child-adult psychotherapist Joanna Fortune said the most important thing is to not let the son use a razor unattended again.
She said she understands the son’s insecurity and confusion over reaching puberty first – but the parent just needs to offer support and solutions.
“He has also come to you with another option - he has said if he has a swim top, he could go,” she said.
Joanna encouraged the parent to give the child the swim top, but to remind him that what’s happening to his body is normal.
“Body changes can be embarrassing because bodies are embarrassing, especially at this age,” she said.
“You don’t say that to minimise or dismiss it... But it’s just saying, ‘I understand you're embarrassed and accountable, but bodies are changing’.”
The parent should remind their son that all his peers will go through puberty as well, and he’s just developing a little sooner than others.
Joanna said one important thing is to make sure the son’s embarrassment doesn’t stop him from enjoying his hobbies.
“My motivation would be getting back swimming, don't let that drop,” she said.
“I would go with the T-shirt and keep doing what you're doing... supporting him and reassuring him that everybody else will be going through this too.”
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