For many, the pandemic has messed up any sense of time. Parents and paediatricians know better: Babies become toddlers, elementary school students, who eventually reach puberty. Children grow up no matter what happens in the outside world.
“I have a number of patients who have had their menstrual periods since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Dr. Katherine Williamson, a pediatrician at Ladera Ranch in California. In a stressful time, it can seem like one more thing. But Williamson said the pandemic could have a silver lining for children going through puberty in their community, where almost all schooling is virtual.
“The mothers said, ‘Thank god she was home!'” Williamson said. “You don’t have to worry about your first period when you’re in school.”
This also applies to other key transitions. “For girls putting on bras for the first time or boys whose voices are starting to crack … it’s actually nice to go through the physical changes in the safety of your own home.”
While many children miss their peers, psychologist Lisa Damour said the playground isn’t always the healthiest place to learn about physical changes like budding breasts, pubic hair, or periods.
“So much of what happens is an uncomfortable comparison,” said Damour, a senior advisor with the Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University, whose “Ask Lisa” podcast examines the psychology of parenting. “When children’s bodies are changing or not changing as quickly as their peers do, children are very aware of it.”
The changes that come with puberty can be challenging for children and adults, but Damour said supporting your teen doesn’t have to be (too) cumbersome.
Here’s what you need to know about pandemic puberty, including “the talk,” teenage self-care, and TikTok: