For many, the pandemic has scrambled any sense of passing time. Parents and pediatricians know better: Babies turn into toddlers, who turn into elementary school students, who eventually hit puberty. Kids grow up no matter what happens in the outside world.
“I have a number of patients who have gotten their periods since the pandemic started,” said Dr. Katherine Williamson, a pediatrician in Ladera Ranch, California. It can seem like one more thing at a stressful time. But Williamson said the pandemic might have a silver lining for kids going through puberty in her community, where nearly all schooling is virtual.
“The moms were like, ‘Thank goodness she was at home!'” Williamson said. “They don’t have to deal with their first period when they’re at school.”
That goes for other key transitions, too. “For girls who are putting on bras for the first time, or for boys whose voices are starting to crack … it is actually nice to go through the physical changes in the safety of their own home.”
While many kids are missing their peers, psychologist Lisa Damour said the playground isn’t always the healthiest place to learn about bodily changes such as budding breasts, pubic hair or periods.
“So much of what happens is awkward comparison,” said Damour, a senior adviser to the Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University, whose podcast “Ask Lisa” explores the psychology of parenting. “When kids bodies are changing, or not changing, as quickly as their peers’ are, kids are very conscious of that.”
The changes that come with puberty can be challenging for kids and adults, but Damour said supporting your adolescent doesn’t have to be (too) awkward.