Remember puberty? You probably don’t really want to. While it’s a critical time in our physical and mental development, it’s rare that anyone thinks it was a happy time of life. And just when we may have stopped cringing at the memory of this awkward time, we realize that our children are about to hit that same stage.
Bay Street Pediatrics is here to help both you and your child get through puberty as painlessly and positively as possible. With open communication and a good grasp of puberty science, both you and your child can make it through!
Please note that the information in this article applies to children who identify as their birth gender, and Bay Street providers respect and understand that children may experience gender in different ways.
The Medical Facts of Puberty
For both genders, puberty begins with the appearance of hair around the genitals and under the arms, swift increases in height, and typically, acne development. These signs, however, are where similarities in puberty in boys and girls ends and the transition into physical adulthood begins to look different.
As with all development milestones, each child will go through puberty in their own time. However, there are average ages when parents can expect to see signs of puberty.
Boys will usually begin puberty between the ages of 9 and 14 years old. Puberty begins with the testicles and scrotum growing in size, hair appearing around the genitals and under the arms, as well as a probable growth spurt. These additional changes will then follow:
- Vocal changes
- More muscle mass
- Increase in sweating, leading to body odor
- Ejaculation at night, also referred to as “wet dreams”
Girls usually begin puberty between the ages of 8 and 13. Girls will initially experience breast development, the appearance of light pubic hair, and an increase in height.
Menstruation typically begins around 12.5 years of age, but this may vary widely depending upon family history, nutrition, weight and athletic activity. Prior to her first period, it’s important to explain what this bleeding means biologically and what symptoms she may experience. Ensure that girls have access to the feminine products she needs before she gets her first period so she is confident about taking care of herself, even if a parent is not immediately available.
When is Puberty a Problem?
While puberty happens uniquely for each boy and girl, there are problems that could cause long term issues for your child if not promptly diagnosed and treated. These could be caused by
- Glandular problems
- Excessive exposure to hormones
Call Bay Street and make an appointment if your child has:
- Signs of puberty before age 8, indicating precocious puberty
- Reached their 14th birthday without signs of puberty
Advice for Parents
Puberty is a time when your child’s brain is developing very quickly to keep up with all the changes that are happening to them physically. Your child may push for more independence, and will become more concerned about peer acceptance. Boys and girls alike will also begin to think more abstractly and about the future. They will begin to form romantic and sexual relationships. Parents should work to begin thinking of their children as developing adults and to seek ways to provide emotional support in this exciting time.
Start open and honest conversations about puberty when you suspect it will begin soon. Let them know that their body and brain are about to go through changes that may leave them feeling out of control or confused or even angry for reasons that they might not be able to identify. Assure your child that they can come to you with questions, that you will answer them honestly, and there is no reason to be embarrassed. Explain that puberty is normal – and perhaps share a memory of your own experiences.
Avoid trying to cajole your child into talking if they’re not comfortable; communication should happen on their terms. Never tease your child about physical changes that you observe, such as developing breasts or voice changes. If your child is embarrassed or resentful of changes they are experiencing, try to find ways to ease them into accepting these changes. If your daughter’s breasts are developing, offer to go bra shopping together, or suggest wearing camisoles with built-in support underneath her clothing until she is emotionally ready to wear a bra.
Because this is a time when the need to be accepted by peers is at its peak, adolescents who develop early or late may feel isolated and abnormal. Remind your child that everyone develops in different ways at different times, but eventually everyone “catches up” – and they will too.
If you’re dealing with mood swings, take a deep breath and remember how you felt while going through puberty. Try to provide what your child needs most during this time – grace, understanding, and love.
When you have questions about your adolescent’s physical and emotional changes, the providers at Bay Street are here to help. Just call 203-227-3674 or click here to schedule an appointment.