Puberty is an exciting time for kids and parents, but it can also be scary, emotional and frustrating. Lots of children are not comfortable with all the changes happening to them or what they mean. They may be concerned or embarrassed about their skin, their body image, their voice, sexual feeling, romantic attraction and/or any number of other changes. At Westchester Health, we understand all the changes your teen or pre-teen is going through and we’re here to help, with advice, information and a listening ear. To make what can be a rough ride a little smoother, we recommend this recent blog by Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group.
4 tips to help your child safely navigate the ups and downs of puberty
- Reassure your child that everything that’s happening is normal. Their friends are also going through the same changes and probably have similar feelings, although they may not admit it.
- Celebrate the changes. Puberty signals that your child is becoming an adult – a young man or woman. Respond with praise, encouragement and support. Also, it’s important at this stage of your child’s development to increase their responsibilities and in a parallel way, your trust of them.
- Emphasize inner and outer beauty. If you have a daughter, she may say things like, “I’m fat” or “I’m ugly.” Reassure her that she is beautiful, inside and out, and that her body will eventually reach a balanced state.
- Encourage your son or daughter to eat healthy, get enough sleep (a tough one at this age), exercise regularly and find healthy ways to de-stress.
- In girls, the first sign of puberty is usually breast development. Your daughter’s breasts may swell or feel sore, and one breast might be larger than the other. This is normal, but if one breast is significantly different in size, or if the size doesn’t level out in time, you may want to consult your pediatrician.
- After breast development, girls will start growing hair in the pubic area and armpits. If your daughter doesn’t already use deodorant, now is a good time to start. Most girls want to start shaving their legs and armpits at this stage, and become very interested (obsessed?) with makeup, body shape, clothes and overall appearance.
- They will start to develop hips.
- Girl will also start their menstrual period, usually between 12 and 14.
- The first physical sign of puberty in boys is testicle and penis growth.
- Like girls, they will grow hair in their armpits and pubic areas.
- Their muscles will grow and their voices will deepen.
- Facial hair usually shows up last.
- They develop an Adam’s apple in their throats.
Both girls and boys:
- Have growth spurts
- Can develop acne or skin problems; girls may develop these earlier, around age 13
- Produce body odor
- Can experience “growing pains” in joints
- Can become overly sensitive or get upset easily
- Have an increased sense of body image
- Experience sexual feelings
Boys may seem more sullen, while girls may cry or yell more easily. Of course, how your child specifically responds to changes will depend on his or her personality.
For girls, expect emotions to run high before and during menstrual periods. If mood swings are severe, your pediatrician might recommend dietary changes, vitamin supplements and more sleep.
Questions or concerns? Please come see us.
If you’re concerned about any aspects of puberty and your child, come in and talk with us at Westchester Health. We’re here to help with advice, guidance and years of experience helping kids and parents make it successfully through this often difficult time.
To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.