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Parenting Pro-tip: Helping Your Kids During Puberty

Health Tips
Dec 16, 2021

Parenting Pro-tip: Helping Your Kids During Puberty

Getting to puberty is one of the most important moments in a teenager's life, as well as their parents'. A young person goes through a lot of physical and emotional changes at this stage of their life, and understanding these changes is crucial to their success. In this guide, we show parents how they can prepare and help their children prepare for puberty. 

What is Puberty?

Puberty is a time period of change from childhood to adulthood, which involves the development of sexual organs, reproductive functions and the appearance of secondary sex characteristics. Puberty generally begins between 11 years old and 14 for girls; boys usually start around 12 to 13 years old.

Before puberty, children are what many people call 'precocious' (which means they act like adults), meaning they like adult things like make-up or romantic music without thinking about what it all really means behind what they're doing. During puberty though, the body develops what's called gonads. It's the medical term for what most refer to as "balls" or "ovaries". They start producing hormones that cause both physical changes and emotional reactions in our bodies that we weren't really prepared for when we're young.

Hormones are chemicals that are produced by the body's endocrine system. They travel through your bloodstream to help different parts of the body do what they need to. Hormones can affect your mood, sleep patterns, metabolism and more. When you start puberty, hormones go crazy in your body and cause things like what's known as 'sprouting hair' or what's often referred to as 'growing a beard'. Not everyone sprouts facial or body hair or experiences all five stages of puberty though.

What are the 5 Stages of Puberty?

There are five stages that happen in puberty that all teens go through, though it can take up to five years or more for one stage to be completed before moving on to the next one.

They first start with what's called precocious puberty, where their bodies begin taking on what looks like adult features but isn't quite there yet. This is the shortest stage of puberty but still very important because many parents notice at this time what can become concerning behaviour for them.

Second is what's called 'apparent' puberty where kids might start becoming what you call a "late bloomer" among their friends. At this stage, they go through what is considered average development, but then one day the growth spurts and puberty blues strike harder than it did before, which can be upsetting for both parent and child.

In the third stage called early puberty, the physical development in a child becomes more apparent to everyone around them because now there is no confusion whatsoever about what is happening with their bodies. Some teenagers may also have chest and armpit hair growth in addition to secondary sex characteristics such as breasts and facial hair. Others may not have these hair growths and it shouldn't be a cause for concern.

The last two stages of puberty happen in a matter of a few years rather than years upon years like the first three stages. The fourth stage is what's called mid puberty, and what happens during this time is the development of the adult body.

Last but not least, the late puberty stage begins, which means that the hormones have finished changing a teenager into what looks like an adult, so now they can begin to gain weight as an adult is supposed to do since there are no more excess pounds to gain. 

What are the Signs of Puberty?

The hormone levels experienced by adolescents during the onset of puberty depend on the level of production by their adrenal glands; this results in their unique experiences. The most common changes that occur on their bodies are pubic hair growth, breast development, deeper voices, and even body odour or bad breath. In addition to the physical signs, what makes puberty so difficult for both teenagers and parents alike is what happens emotionally during this important time in life. Teenagers can seem moody one moment and happy the next; it's because their hormones are affecting their moods. They also start having random thoughts about sex that lead to curiosity, which leads to awkward conversations between parent and child. 

Signs of Puberty in Girls

  • Adolescent girls will have breast buds and may also begin developing what is called "thelarche", which is the beginning of breast growth
  • Widening of their hips
  • Vaginal discharge and their menstrual cycle begins
  • Growth of pubic hair; some may also notice hair in their armpits
  • They may have a combination of blackheads and whiteheads that appear on their faces
  • Increase of sweat glands 
  • Rapid growth in height, about 2 or more inches every month

Signs of Puberty in Boys

  • Boys will begin growing taller and stronger
  • Increased body mass
  • Their voice box grows bigger, leading to thicker vocal cords
  • They may develop acne
  • Armpit hair growth
  • Another sign of puberty in teenage boys is wet dreams as their sex drive increases
Changes happening in boys and girls during pubertySource: Behance/Bethany Matern

Most teens will find themselves wanting to spend more time with friends or alone because their newfound social skills leave parents out of the picture. They may also experience urges, which might affect their behaviour at home or at school. 

How Parents Can Help Their Kids Through Puberty

It is important for both parents and children to talk about what's happening during puberty because it might make the latter feel weird or uncomfortable talking about it with their mother or father themselves. When parents bring up the topic, it shows that they care enough to make sure their children know what's going on in their bodies and what they might expect during puberty.

Parents should talk about what might happen during, what their children could experience during puberty and what changes to expect in their bodies. It's important that you don't impose your own beliefs or values on what's going on as parents. Rather, just let your child know it's normal if she gets her period before other girls do, or that it's normal for a boy to feel a sense of sexual excitement as he approaches sexual maturation. It isn't something he should be ashamed of or guilty of. The important thing is that your child feels comfortable with what is happening with their body and knows they have your support throughout the process.

The first step that you need to take as a parent is to establish a relationship with your child before having any serious conversations about what happens to them during puberty. Make sure to engage in open communication where questions are encouraged, no secrets are kept between parent and child, and no judgement is made when it comes to what your child has done or told you previously.

Be patient with what is happening to your child during puberty, both physically and emotionally. Also, it's important to guide them in developing a healthy lifestyle that consists of regular exercise, healthy eating habits, adequate sleep and healthy social interaction with other people.

As a teenager's body develops and transitions to adult size, parents need to guide them along the way to keep them from feeling alone or confused. Discussing puberty with your child will help them realise they are not the only one going through this. It is important that parents reinforce what their kids learn in school about sex, alcohol and drugs, because the effects of these things can be quite severe during this time.

FAQs About Puberty & Teen Health

What are 3 emotional changes during puberty?

A child's emotions become more intense during puberty. Due to the increased production of hormones, they may experience mood swings. The majority of the time, they may feel grumpy, confused or uncertain.

What age should you talk with your daughter about puberty?

The moment your child begins to show physical or emotional signs of puberty, you should talk to them. This happens to some children after their 8th birthday, while others experience delayed puberty.

What triggers the beginning of puberty?

Puberty is caused by the production of the gonadotropin hormone in the brain. This hormone stimulates the pituitary gland to release two hormones, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).

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Hormone Imbalances,  Nutrition,  Sleep

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