Even though it was many years ago I still remembered being bullied in school for three main things.
Number 1, I wore glasses. Now why anyone should be bullied because their eyesight is slightly defective, I do not know. Secondly, I was bullied because I was clever. Now I would be called a nerd but back then I don’t think nerds were invented. And the 3rd thing is that I was short. Not the shortest in the class, there was 1 boy shorter than me and if I could remember him I would apologise profusely. But I was short because I was a puberty late developer. A late developer which meant I didn’t really grow to, you know, an average height until i was in year 10 in High School. So year 6, 7 , 8 and 9 I was short. Gordon Warburton was tall. I’m not sure if he was an early developer but he was certainly earlier than I was, that’s a fact. Back in those days when we did Physical Education, PE in school, we sort of always went and had a shower afterwards. It was part of my school culture, don’t know if it was an era thing or a British thing but we all went and had a shower. Communal showers, boys all in together; no problem. Well, no problem for Gordon Warburton who had, you know, how do we say, quite a lot to be proud of. In fact many boys learned the art of getting dry with half the towel, the other half covering the appropriate parts of the body. While Gordon Warburton didn’t feel the need for such shyness or embarassment.
Looking back in some ways it’s quite humurous to think how important that particular development is to a young man. But at that time it was not pleasant at all. Of course now I realise it’s not a matter of physical change it’s not even a matter of emotionally growing up. It’s a matter of feeling different, not fitting in, feeling isolated – awkward. Add to that, the whole concept of puberty and sexuality and sex is just not talked about in any sort of adult or supportive way rather just the playground chatter and banter which again looking back just wasn’t true for most of the time. So how can we as well being workers support students in school? Well, the first thing we can do is be open and honest. If you’re game, share your own experiences but certainly reassure them that there is a genuine range of ages where puberty occurs. And whilst it may be disappointing you feel you’re at the wrong end – too early or too late – it will all settle down in the end. Encourage them to talk at home, if possible, or find other adults or responsible young people that they can just chat it through – the feelings that they’re facing and the issues that they’ve got. I well remember to talking to a young man, I’ll call him Mark. I well remmeber talking to Mark because he was obviously a late developer. Late in that his growth spurt haven’t started and he confided to me nothing else was changing in his body either. Certainly he was not growing hairs under his arms or on anywhere! And that was causing him quite some concern. He had spoken a little bit to his mum about it and she’d assured him everything was okay. But he still felt insecure and unaccepted. So i was able to offer him some extra TLC jsut to be there and support, be there when he’s feeling flat, down, fed up. He could come and have winged with me or just come and have a sit in a sort of general natter and just be there as a support. And of course as we all know from our perspective, within a few months things had started to change. His body had started to develop and that particular pressure was off in Mark’s life.
As always, puberty is a very sensitive issue, sensitive because it’s personal in nature and has a sexual implication. So not all young people will be willing to talk about it but if you’re able to and they’re willing to then I would suggest you can offer support. Even simple things about talking about acne, well simple to us maybe but not necessarily simple to them. And just say it’s a “phase”. Try not to be or come across as dismissive but as supportive through this. And I’m sure that you and they will get through puberty like every other adult has learned since time began.
As always if you’d like to comment or to ask a question just fill in the comments section below and I wil get back to you as soon as I possibly can.