Parents of 7- or 8-year-olds experiencing sudden irritability and emotional changes are not alone; these alterations in behavior may be due to adrenarche, the first time hormone levels surge in children before puberty, which can disrupt how they manage their emotions.
As the mother of four girls, I had no idea what was going on when my second daughter turned seven and transformed from a pleasant, laid-back child into a child who exploded over small matters.
My first thought was that something was going on at school, but after discussing her emotions, she informed me she was disturbed and angry for no apparent reason. When I addressed this with her teachers, they informed me that the hormonal changes that occur in second grade are often worse than puberty.
I discovered that the explanation for my daughter’s behavioral change is a developmental stage called adrenarche. Between the ages of six and eight, scientists believe youngsters begin to experience an increase in hormones, which can result in heightened emotions. Continue reading to learn more about adrenarche symptoms and how to manage them effectively.
Why does Adrenarche Occur?
The Childhood to Adolescent Transition Study in Australia discovered that children in the second and third grades witnessed a rise in adrenal androgens, hormones that play a significant role in puberty a few years later. This natural increase in adrenal androgens occurs in all children, although not all display alterations in mood or behavior.
What Is Adrenarche?
Adrenarche, as defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, is the prepubescent rise in androgen (mostly DHEA) synthesis by the adrenal glands.
According to George Patton, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, professor, and head of adolescent health research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, which oversaw the study, adrenarche is a distinct developmental stage that typically occurs at least two years prior to puberty itself.
Patton says that there is a growing interest in adrenarche as an essential developmental stage in which children lay emotional and physiological foundations for adolescence. “It is during these years that a kid begins to build the sense of self that he or she will take into adolescence and adulthood.”
Signs of Adrenarche in Children
While physical changes can be observed during puberty, adrenarche is mostly a psychological and emotional growth phase. Physical signs such as pubic and armpit hair growth or acne are less likely to be caused by hormones pouring through your child’s body.
Patton argues that adrenal androgens are neurosteroids that appear to have an effect on certain emotional processing pathways. A 2016 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says that physical symptoms in children, like pubic hair, underarm hair, and body odor, aren’t usually a cause for concern unless they are accompanied by breast growth before the age of 8 and/or enlargement of the penile and/or testicles before the age of 9 and/or abnormal linear growth.
In other words, you may observe your 7- or 8-year-old acting irrationally furious or upset as they try to regulate their emotions. They may begin to drift off from their social circles, or their behavior may appear out of character. There are, thankfully, ways for parents to assist their children in adjusting to the change.
Managing the Adrenarche Phase
Liat Hughes Joshi, the author of 5-Minute Parenting Solutions, explains that the adrenarche stage might be perplexing for parents because they are accustomed to mood swings in toddlers and adolescents. Nonetheless, communication is crucial.
“Discuss your child’s emotions when you are both at peace,” recommends Joshi. Ensure that you are “constant, firm, and fair.” And develop together techniques to assist your child in managing their emotions. Joshi suggests encouraging people to take deep breaths when they are feeling irritated.
Joshi also cautions against allowing your child to behave poorly due to hormones alone. “Rather than attributing all behavioral changes to hormones, check for other factors in your child’s life that could be the cause.”
Rachel Davis, NLP practitioner and founder of LaLa Tigers and Raise a Tiger, a program that uses meditation and music to teach mental and emotional well-being to parents and children, recommends a similar strategy. Constantly affirm your child’s emotions and assist them in naming them.
“Once the emotion has subsided, allow them to consider how they might respond differently the next time,” suggests Davis, a mother of two. Putting them in charge of the solution encourages them to take responsibility for their emotions and actions and make better decisions.