How to Support your Kids Through Puberty

May 10, 2022 2:47:07 PM

Written By:
Dr. Stephanie O'Neill


Puberty is an uncomfortable and challenging part of life for adolescents. As a parent, you want to make sure you have all of the necessary tools to ease this transition for your kids.

In the 1800s, the average age of onset for puberty in girls was 15 or 16. Today, the average age is 12. This earlier onset is linked to several environmental and lifestyle factors and can result in a range of emotional consequences.

To best support your children through puberty, you must ensure they are eating a nutritious diet, getting plenty of exercise and outdoor time, avoiding toxins when possible, and learning to manage stress.

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are kids reaching puberty earlier, and why?

Research shows that our adolescents are reaching puberty earlier. Over the past 150 years, the age of onset has fallen substantially for both boys and girls. Today, the average age of a girl’s first menstruation is 12, whereas it was once closer to 16.[1] 

Various factors have contributed to this change. One primary influence is an environment saturated with synthetic chemicals, particularly estrogen-like chemicals that are hard to avoid. Known as endocrine disrupters, phthalates in plastics are found in food, water, personal care and hygiene products, and perfumes. They can begin impacting women in utero and have been shown to disrupt thyroid, sex hormone, and vitamin D levels in pregnant women and offspring.[2] Early puberty may contribute to emotional strain and raise girls' risk of ovarian and breast cancer due to more prolonged exposure to estrogen.[3]

Other factors that impact puberty onset might include technological advances affecting food production and lifestyle—from nutrient-depleted soil to more processed food consumption and less time outdoors. Modern children also face increased stress from family, school, and society, as well as less time to play and explore freely.

how to support your kids through puberty and weight gain

While these modern-day realities can feel daunting for parents, there are actionable steps you can take to support your kids through puberty, including maintaining a healthy weight.

offer whole foods and enough dietary fats

From the moment children are born, offering whole and minimally processed foods sets the stage for a healthy hormone levels and lifelong balanced eating habits. In Western societies, even babies are given processed foods that come in plastic packaging, and this pattern often continues as kids get older.

Along with whole foods and a variety of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats play a huge role in maintaining healthy hormone levels. A low-fat diet model has wreaked havoc on hormonal development and transitions like puberty and menopause. Cholesterol, the precursor for all steroid hormones, is also crucial for producing bile and vitamin D (another hormone critical for puberty).[4] Don’t be shy about including plenty of foods rich in healthy fats and dietary cholesterol in your children’s diet, such as wild fish, avocado, eggs, olive oil, and moderate amounts of healthy saturated fats like ghee, grass-fed butter, coconut, and meat from grass-fed animals.

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are well known for supporting estrogen metabolism and detoxification.[5]

teach age-appropriate stress management techniques

Learning age-appropriate self-care techniques can make a major difference in a smooth transition through puberty.

Adrenal hormones have a powerful effect on all other hormones, and high levels of ongoing stress in kids and adults predispose them to hormonal imbalances.[6] High stress can cause hormonal issues and increase discomforts of pre-existing hormonal problems. Stress management is essential for downstream hormones like thyroid and sex hormone production, transport, and processing.

Today, children are much more tethered to screens and are less physically active than previous generations. Paired with increased school, family, and societal pressure, these lifestyle shifts can impact adolescents’ transition into adulthood. Helping your children manage stress is vital to preventing an uncomfortable puberty experience.

avoid toxins when possible

Avoiding all exposure to toxins is impossible in today’s environment, but you can omit certain offenders that impact hormones. Opting for stainless steel and glass food containers, choosing organic cosmetics, personal hygiene, and cleaning products, and eating organic foods makes a major difference.

address nutrient deficiencies 

Adjust your child’s diet to address any nutrient deficiencies, and speak with your child’s integrative doctor about supplementation if needed. Common deficiencies that can exacerbate puberty discomforts include omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA), vitamin D, dietary cholesterol, and B vitamins. All these nutrients, except vitamin D, are naturally occurring in wild fatty fish, dark leafy green vegetables, eggs, and grass-fed beef. Vitamin D is best absorbed from direct sunlight, but supplementation might be necessary if you live above the Mason-Dixon line.

related content: liposomal vitamin d: Benefits and uses

support adequate sleep

Adolescents need more sleep during this developmental stage, and it’s important for parents to allow this. Inadequate sleep can lead to hormonal imbalances, trouble managing weight, an unhealthy circadian rhythm, and poor insulin and blood sugar control.[7] 

According to John Hopkins, teens experience a natural shift in their circadian rhythm during puberty, making them more likely to stay up at night and sleep late into the morning. Most teens require at least nine hours of sleep per night.

stay hydrated

Plenty of water is essential for detoxification and hormonal balance, and adolescents tend to prefer high-sugar beverages to water. As a parent, encouraging water consumption and incorporating fruits and vegetables into each meal helps build this healthy habit from a young age.

help kids navigate the emotional changes of puberty

Even under the best circumstances, puberty often causes big emotional shifts, and factors like high stress, inadequate sleep, exercise, and a diet of processed foods can amplify those shifts. As a parent or caregiver, finding ways to lessen pressures on your kids and offer unconditional love through these changes is important. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you need it.


Kids are entering puberty earlier, and their physical, emotional, and mental well-being could suffer the consequences. As a parent, understanding how to best support your children is key for helping make this transition as smooth as possible.

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[1] Bellis, M. A., Downing, J., & Ashton, J. R. (2006). Adults at 12? Trends in puberty and their public health consequences. Journal of epidemiology and community health, 60(11), 910–911.



[4] Mumford, S. L., Chavarro, J. E., Zhang, C., Perkins, N. J., Sjaarda, L. A., Pollack, A. Z., Schliep, K. C., Michels, K. A., Zarek, S. M., Plowden, T. C., Radin, R. G., Messer, L. C., Frankel, R. A., & Wactawski-Wende, J. (2016). Dietary fat intake and reproductive hormone concentrations and ovulation in regularly menstruating women. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 103(3), 868–877.

[5] Ambrosone CB, McCann SE, Freudenheim JL, Marshall JR et al Breast cancer risk in pre-menopausal women is inversely associated with consumption of broccoli, but is not modified by GST genotype. J Nutr. 2004 May;134(5):1134-8

[6] 4103/2230-8210.77573

[7] Knutson, Kristen. Does inadequate sleep play a role in vulnerability to obesity? 2012. Accessed December 30, 2019.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.