What your child needs to know about puberty
As children step into their teen years, their bodies begin to experience certain physical changes.
Young boys and girls not only mature mentally, but during this period, adolescents also reach sexual maturity and are capable of reproduction.
This is what is called puberty, a stage that occurs between ages 10-14 for girls and ages 12-16 for boys.
Everyone goes through this phase, however, not everyone understands what they’re going through. For some teens, it can even be confusing and frustrating.
That said, to help your teen decipher some of the common concerns associated with puberty, here’s a detailed look into what it really is and what it means for boys and girls.
Role of hormones
When a child reaches the stage of puberty, he or she experiences several hormonal changes. At the start of puberty, one’s brain produces a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which sets off the pituitary gland – the control system for several other hormones. This therefore results in the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) into the bloodstream, leading to different changes in the male and female bodies. A female body starts producing estrogen, whereas a male body makes testosterone.
Puberty in girls
During puberty, girls or those with vulva and ovaries develop breasts first, followed by pubic hair development and hair growth in the armpit. Simultaneously, young girls may find their hips getting fuller and waists thinner with larger and tender breasts.
Furthermore, vaginal discharge is a common occurrence during puberty. Initially, it means that the body is preparing for its first menstrual occurrence, which is the final stage of puberty and which means that the female body is capable of reproduction.
Parents need to know that the onset of menstruation in girls may differ from person to person. While the average age is 12, one can get their first period at the age of 8. However, talking to your gynecologist may give you a better understanding of the same.
Puberty in boys
The initial signs of puberty in boys are enlargement of penis and testicles, pubic, underarm, and facial hair growth.
As and when the hormones kick in, the shape of their body also alters, making them grow in height, along with more muscles and wider shoulders. Also, the larynx grows larger and thicker, altering their vocal tone, making their voices significantly deeper.
Penis size and other common concerns for boys
When a boy hits the stage of puberty, he may notice a change in the size of his penis. This is because of the increasing levels of testosterone in the body. It is during this time that the penis growth will be rapid and at its peak. It is likely to increase in length and girth. The penis growth is said to end when the stage of puberty ends. For most boys, the growth of the penis stops in their late teen years.
That said, during this stage, teens are often concerned about their penis size. And because they’re embarrassed to question others about their penis size, they’re almost always wondering what’s normal. This could therefore go from being a source of curiosity to that of anxiety, which must be prevented.
Young boys must be told that penis sizes have no association whatsoever with medical problems. It is determined by one’s genes and most importantly, there’s a huge difference between how one’s penis looks when it is relaxed and when it is going through an erection.
Talk to your kids
While parents may find it awkward to talk to their kids about puberty, it is a conversation that should begin early. Since puberty in girls starts between the ages 8-14, talk to them about menstruation, before they experience it and are frightened off by the sight of their first period blood. Also, if your daughter is concerned about their breast changes, let them know it’s normal and comfort them simultaneously.
Puberty in the body begins at age 9 to 15. While they may find it hard to open up about their concerns, initiate the talk. Start off with the basics and as and when you feel the time is right, educate them about sex and the protection they need against sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
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