How to Help Your Tween Through Delayed Puberty

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Puberty is a tough time for tweens, but it can be even more upsetting for a tween when all of his or her friends have developed, but they haven't. Delayed puberty presents a variety of challenges to both children and parents, but it's a challenge that can be tackled together.

A tween who is experiencing delayed puberty may feel like something is wrong with them. Even worse, a classmate who makes a negative comment could cause additional stress and concern. If your tween is going through puberty later than their peers, or if their physical development is slow to start, the most important thing you can do is be supportive.

What Is Delayed Puberty?

Delayed puberty is when people pass through the typical "puberty years" without showing any signs of bodily changes. It is puberty that occurs later in a child's development than what is defined as "normal." Puberty doesn't happen overnight. It's a years-long process. For girls, puberty typically begins between ages 8 and 13. For boys, it starts between 9 and 15. It's a wide age range for a reason: people develop at different rates. It's not uncommon for girls and boys to develop as late as 13, 14 or 15.

But if your child hasn't yet shown the signs of puberty by age 14 for girls or 15 for boys, delayed puberty could be to blame. Keep in mind that delayed puberty is nothing to be overly concerned about. Everyone develops differently. Delayed puberty also tends to run in families. If you or other members of your family developed later, chances are your tween will, too. This is known as a constitutional delay, or being a "late bloomer."

Still, it's important to recognize that delayed puberty can be caused by a variety of physical conditions:

  • Malnutrition: If your child is not getting proper nutrients, their body may not be equipped for puberty.
  • Hormonal issues: Conditions that affect the pituitary and thyroid glands prevent these glands from producing the hormones necessary for development.
  • Chronic conditions: Illnesses such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and kidney disease make it harder for the body to develop.

How Parents Can Help

Patience is a virtue, and in cases of delayed puberty, it is exactly what you and your tween need. If your son or daughter is stressing about puberty, reassure them that everyone develops on their own time and that their body will change when it's ready.

Certain things are hallmarks of growing up: using deodorant, shaving your legs, going shopping for your first bra, etc. These are things tweens look forward to doing. Allow your child to do these things, even if they don't necessarily need to. Allowing them to engage in normal tween behaviors will help them feel like they fit in and be prepared when puberty comes.

More importantly, remind your tween that puberty — and the frustrations of delayed puberty — is just a phase. Like all phases, this will eventually pass, and when it does your teen will forget all about their present concerns and anxieties.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Stanford Children’s Health. The growing child: teenager (13 to 18 years).

  2. Howard SR. Genes underlying delayed puberty. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2018;476:119-128.  doi:10.1016/j.mce.2018.05.001

  3. NYU Langone Health. Types of disorders of puberty.

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.