The (very) basics of puberty

Puberty basics answered with five questions

Parents of pre-teen children may be wondering about puberty –I am, and my oldest daughter is still only 8 years old. I know puberty is right around the corner, so it’s time for me to start looking for information to help both of us – me and my daughter – survive her puberty.

My daughter has always had a flair for the dramatics. Her role in the epic meltdown My Sister Won’t Play with Me Because I’m too Bossy could have won her an Oscar. Basically, I worry that my little princess is going to have a very rough time when she finally reaches that most difficult adolescent age.

So, I asked Colleen Dupuis, DO, of the Banner Health Center in Southwest Loveland to give me a quick rundown on just what to expect when puberty hits.

What is puberty?

Puberty, as it is described in this entry in our health library, is “the entire process of changes affecting the body and its hormones that accompany sexual maturation.”

Dr. Dupuis notes, “Puberty usually starts between ages 8 and 12 in girls and 9 and 14 in boys.”

We have some good resources on our website, if you need more information than what is shared here. Check out this entry in our health library.

What are some of the first signs puberty has started?

“The first signs of puberty in girls are usually the beginning of breast development and pubic hair growth,” says Dr. Dupuis. “Other changes involved in female puberty are growth spurts and the start of monthly periods.”

For boys, it usually starts with testicular growth followed by penile growth, pubic hair and growth spurts, according to Dr. Dupuis. She also says parents might notice acne, mood swings, an increase in sweating and changes in vision.

So, if mood swings are a sign and my daughter has always had them, I’m a little afraid of what’s to come.

What can a parent can do to help the child through puberty?

This was the big question for me. I think we can all agree that a parent is supposed to help children through difficult times, and what can be more difficult than having your body start doing all kinds of weird things when you least expect it?

“A parent can help a child through puberty by discussing the upcoming changes before they happen and answering questions children have about going through puberty,” says Dr. Dupuis.

What are some of the major adjustments for parents?

Let’s not forget that a child going through puberty affects everyone in the house. The parent has some big changes to adjust to also.

“Having a child go through puberty is a major adjustment for parents because it shows that their children are growing up and becoming adults,” says Dr. Dupuis. “It creates a stress in the child’s life, and mood swings can strain the parent-child relationship.”

Are there issues or concerns that parents need to pay attention to?

Dr. Dupuis says parents need to be supportive and answer their child’s questions.

“Many times, going through puberty comes with changes in self-esteem, so give them encouragement and support them during this difficult time,” says Dr. Dupuis.

Love, encourage and support my daughter? Piece of cake. The hard part is going to be letting my little princess grow up.

I think the first step is figuring out where these last eight years went….

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