Puberty and Its Many Changes

puberty.jpgFew things characterize the tween/teen years like puberty; or more specifically, who has hit it, and who hasn’t. And if you were in the same boat as me and my peers back in the day, your parents didn't prep you for what to expect and when. Today, PPLM Parent Education Program Manager Amy Cody offers tips to help you talk to your kids about puberty:
From Amy Cody:

Sometime between the ages of about 9 and 16, girls and boys do more than just grow taller and bigger as they have done since birth. Girls start to grow into young women and boys start to grow into young men. Puberty or adolescence refers to the span of time between childhood and adulthood. During this time, hormones cause boys and girls to grow and change in many ways - socially, emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually. All these changes do not take place at once. Most of them happen slowly over the span of a few years and a few happen quickly. They often take place in a somewhat specific order. As a parent helping your child negotiate this often challenging time, it is important to normalize the changes your child is experiencing. It can be reassuring to remind them that:

  • Puberty is a process, not a single event, and EVERYONE will go through it.

  • It is a time when a person’s body and feelings begin to change from a child’s to an adult’s.

  • Puberty generally occurs between the ages of 9 and 16, HOWEVER, it can happen before or after that as well.

  • Regardless of when puberty begins or ends, the entire process is very NORMAL.

  • Having more information about their bodies enables youths to make better and healthier decisions and increases self-esteem.

    At the same time, we can help our kids to notice the many similarities, as well as differences that exist between boys and girls. By doing this, we help our kids build empathy, respect, and understanding in their peer group between boys and girls.

    Some changes that happen to both boys and girls include:

  • Skin and hair get oilier
  • Hands and feet get bigger; body grows quickly
  • More sweating
  • Bones in the face grow larger and longer and the face looks less childlike
  • Shoulders and chest grow bigger (girls’ breasts and nipples gradually grow larger and fuller)
  • Voice gets deeper (eventually, boys’ voices usually get deeper than girls)
  • May feel confused or moody
  • Begin to get hair on face and armpits
  • Soft, darkish pubic hair grows and later becomes curly, thick, and coarse
  • Hair thickens on legs and arms
  • Has sexual dreams, gets sexual feelings, and has physical response to sexual arousal
  • Hips change structure (girls’ bodies begin to look more curvy)

    Changes that happen to boys:

  • Penis grows
  • Testes begin to grow and scrotum turns a darker color
  • Sperm production begins

    Changes that happen to girls:

  • Ovaries gradually grow larger and ovulation begins
  • A tiny bit of sticky whitish fluid may come out of the vagina (this is normal)
  • Menstruation begins

    Image credit: (the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Web site for teens)