Puberty is a period of a comprehensive set of physical, emotional and mental changes. It can be a challenging time for children to go through, especially if they aren’t well informed. It occurs because of hormonal changes – the main hormones that come into play during this period are progesterone and estrogen as well as testosterone.
Girls usually experience puberty a little earlier than boys, which is what is expected and maybe also maybe the origin of the saying ‘’ girls mature faster than boys’’. For girls, the average age in which they experience puberty is from 9-12 and for boys it’s between the ages of 10-13.
Girls go through many physical changes during puberty:
- The breasts will grow bigger. In many girls, this is the first sign of puberty.
- Hair grows in the genital area (pubic hair), under the arms, and on the legs. In some girls, pubic hair is the first sign of puberty.
- Girls start to get their monthly periods. Monthly periods usually start within 2 years after the breasts or pubic hair start growing. When a girl first starts getting her period, she might not get one every month. It is normal for a period to skip a month, or come twice in a single month. Some girls feel bloated or have mood changes right before they get their period, often called PMS. Girls can have white or clear vaginal discharge seen in their underwear, this is extremely normal!
- Vaginal discharge is the term doctors use to describe the small amount of fluid that comes out of the vagina during this period. Girls can have white or clear vaginal discharge which is part of the physiological process and it’s only when this discharge has odor or changes in color that it becomes a cause for concern.
As for the guys, the main physical changes that occur are:
- The testicles get bigger. This is usually the first change that happens.
- The penis gets longer and wider.
- Hair grows in the genital area (pubic hair), on the face, and under the arms.
- The voice changes and it becomes deeper.
- Boys can ejaculate a small amount of sperm at night while they sleep. This is sometimes called a “wet dream.”
- The breasts can get slightly bigger. This usually goes away over time and sometimes it doesn’t, which is also perfectly normal.
There are also minor physical changes attributed with puberty for both girls and boys, which include sweating with order, eyesight changes (if a child is going to need glasses, then he/she would start needing them during puberty) as well as skin changes like acne on their face, back, and arms.
When we talk about puberty, we mentioned that the average age for puberty is 9-12 for girls and 10-13 years for guys, but everybody’s experience can be different and unique to their own.
Puberty can come earlier and it could also come later than the average ages listed above, and in most cases this can be normal but there are cases when it’s not normal.
In the medical community the official term given for early puberty is when puberty starts earlier than the age 8 for girls and age 9 for boys, and puberty is medically considered late for girls when it occurs later than 12 and for guys when it’s later than age 14.
Doctors will assess the reasons behind these occurrences and can rule out if there are problems or not so it’s recommended to go get checked out when your puberty is early or late.
Aside from the physical changes, puberty can also be associated with mental changes. For both sexes, this time can be attributed to severe mood swings which can result in behavioral changes. If parents aren’t understanding of their kids during this period, it can lead to a divide between the communication of a parent with his/her child.
Many teenagers go through a hard time during puberty because of all of the mental changes that happen during this process. Depression, anxiety, and self esteem issues all begin to arise around puberty. It’s the first time many of us begin to feel doubt about things we were totally confident about just years ago. The internet is a great place for research at times, but when it comes to the digital age, many teenagers find themselves comparing themselves to people online who only display a fraction of their lives. It can lead to unhealthy habits such as eating disorders and mental issues. It’s important to make sure that teenagers feel like they have a safe space to talk about their emotions, and that starts at home.
For more information on changes during puberty, consult a doctor or psychiatrist for more information and resources. Remember – everyone goes through it, make sure you are taking it one day at a time.