It’s no secret that children undergo changes in their physical development during their middle school years. Not only are there significant exterior physical changes related to appearance and hygiene, but there are also many changes that happen below the surface such as those related to personality and hormones.
This is a very confusing time for middle school students who are seeking answers to the questions that they have about the changes that their bodies are undergoing. Additionally, this can be a difficult time for parents as they struggle to effectively communicate to their children the importance of maintaining proper hygiene and of taking these new changes in stride.
The first thing that parents can do is to assure their children that all of these changes are absolutely normal and that everyone goes through them during this time in their lives. They also need to be sensitive to the fact that many behaviors that arise from their child, negative or otherwise, are to be expected as a direct result of the hormonal changes that occur due to puberty.
Female middle school students will probably experience the first signs of a menstrual period during this age which ends up being a great cause of anxiety for them. Their level of anxiety over this development can easily be decreased if they are armed with information, from their parents, about the topic and afforded the ability to communicate their fears with friends and family members. It is important that they have feminine hygiene products at their disposal in order to promote proper hygiene during this time.
Males will experience other physical changes such as the appearance of facial hair and having their voices change. Their glands will be extremely active during this time and they will require using deodorant or antiperspirant on a daily basis. Sometimes, carrying some deodorant in their book bag and an inexpensive bottle of cologne can mean the difference between having an embarrassing moment or making it through the day without alerting classmates to their body odor.
In my classroom, I actually keep a basket full of these kinds of products that my students can discreetly take with them when they leave the room to go to the bathroom. Having them available this way allows students to take responsibility for their hygiene and for the changes that their bodies are going through. The parents of my students appreciate this and will often contribute additional items such as sanitizer and tissues during the Winter.
When parents and educators work together to create a risk-free environment for addressing the changes in the physical development of Middle Schoolers, they end up making this a less traumatic time for the children. It’s hard enough undergoing the changes caused by puberty and middle school without having someone that these kids can turn to with questions and concerns. Keeping these lines of communication open paves the way for a confident and productive adolescent.
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