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Guide to Parenting a Teen Through Puberty
Puberty begins in the brain by releasing hormones, which result in physical, sexual, emotional and social changes.
Typically, the changes begin to appear earlier in females at around ten years old (though not unusual to start as young as eight) and around age twelve for males (though can begin as young as age nine). The length of time a child goes through puberty will vary. It can take as long as five years (or longer) or as short as eighteen months. Certain factors such as genetics, environmental, and nutritional all play a part in the length of its duration.
Signs of Puberty
There are various examples of possible signs that can occur, regardless of one’s gender. Some of them include the following:
- A growth spurt
- Increased perspiration
- Pungent body odor
- Oily skin resulting in acne
- Oily hair
- Mood swings
Most frequently exhibited in males going through puberty can be exemplified by any of the following signs:
- Hair growth (pubic area, underarms, facial hair)
- Voice variations: the voice box grows which initially results in voice “cracking” and is then followed by voice deepening
- Penis and testicles start growing
- Testosterone production starts
- Erections and ejaculations start
Signs that commonly affect females can include any of the following examples:
- Hair growth (pubic area and underarms)
- Hips begin to widen
- Breasts begin to develop
- Vaginal discharge begins
- Menstruation starts, though periods may initially be irregular
Every child is different and will experience differing signs, at different times when it comes to puberty. In a sense, one’s body takes over and there is no natural way of avoiding maturing through puberty, every child must go though this experience.
Things To Keep In Mind
It is not uncommon for a child going through puberty to want to individuate from his or her parents and establish his or her own identity. This is a time that allows children an opportunity to become more independent. Children going through puberty and adolescence are developing and integrating decision-making skills and coping mechanisms that will likely serve them far beyond their adolescence.
There are significant physiological shifts and changes that are occurring simultaneously during puberty and it is likely your child will experience some level of insecurity. Reassuring your child that going through puberty is unavoidable, is a normal part of growing up, and that everyone goes through it can be helpful. Teaching healthy boundaries, creating safe personal space and honoring privacy are essential during this time.
Know that your child is watching your every move, which is why it is imperative to be a positive role model. For example, role modeling healthy body acceptance can be incredibly beneficial for your adolescent. Making healthy life choices such as integrating regular exercise into your daily routine, eating nutritious foods and regularly obtaining ample sleep are all beneficial for not just yourself, but also for your child to witness.
In moments of frustration, try to put yourself in your child’s shoes. When your adolescent is behaving irrationally or throwing a temper tantrum, it is likely that he or she does not want to be as overwhelmed, mad, and/ or frustrated, but the excess of emotions are simply too much to integrate and process and he or she is struggling. Be compassionate and patient. Praise not only your child’s successes, but also his or her efforts and positive behavior. Allow space for your child to experiment with his or her appearance and support (or accept) their choices. During this time is your child is testing out various ways to become comfortable in his or her own skin as well as how to become an independent human.
For Information and Support
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.
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- Dorn, L.D., & Biro, F.M. (2011). Puberty and its measurement: A decade in review. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 180-195.
- Kumanov, P., & Agarwal, A. (2016). Puberty: Physiology and abnormalities. New York: Springer.
- Steinbeck, K., & Duke, S. (2013). Normal and abnormal pubertal development. In M. Kang, S.R. Skinner, L.A. Sanci & S.M. Sawyer (Eds). Youth health and adolescent medicine (pp. 129-143). Melbourne: IP Communications.