Puberty is the period when a child begins to mature sexually. It is accompanied by various changes in the body of the teenager. Puberty kicks off at ages 11-12 for girls and sometimes earlier and ages 11-14 for boys. This stage is fundamental in the life of a young person and determines how they relate with others. Parents should therefore help their children cope with the changes that come with puberty.
When children reach puberty, their bodies produce some hormones which are responsible for the physical changes in this stage. Some of these changes entail an increase in height and weight, growth of hair in pubic parts, pimples and even body odor. These changes are as a result of hormones produced by the body including progesterone and estrogen. However, due to the varying levels of these two hormones in boys and girls i.e. more estrogen in girls and more testosterone in boys, boys and girls undergo varying physical changes. These changes will therefore be analyzed separately.
Changes in Boys during Puberty
At puberty boys become men which starts when their testes and penis enlarges. They become more masculine. They experience regular erections that may be followed by an ejaculation. They experience what is popularly known as ‘wet dreaming’ where semen flows through the penis. Sometimes erections come during the day for no apparent reason and the boy may feel embarrassed thinking that the people around him have noticed, while the truth is no body is aware unless one draws attention. During puberty, boys experience the following physical changes:
- Hair growth under the armpits, around the penis, on the face, legs and chest areas
- Increase in height, weight and muscles and broadening of the shoulders
- Skin becomes oilier and may develop acne, an increase in perspiration may cause body odor
- The testes and penis enlarge and lengthen, erections and ejaculations occur often
- Breaking of voice
- Breast appear as if they are developing a bit, which vanishes by the end of puberty
Changes in Girls
During puberty, a girl becomes a woman. She starts ovulation where an egg or ova leaves one of the ovaries every month and goes down the fallopian tube. If the egg meets a sperm before it reaches the uterus, fertilization may occur causing the girl to become pregnant. If it doesn’t get fertilized, it breaks and leaves the body together with shed uterus lining as blood. This is what is called menstrual period. Generally girls exhibit the following physical changes;
- Girls gain weight and increase in height
- Body becomes curvy and the hip bone broadens
- Breasts begin to develop; they start as a small swelling under the nipple and later develop into bigger breasts.
- Onset of menstrual cycle and a girl may get some whitish jelly from their vagina before or during periods which is a natural way of the body cleaning process.
Issues that Teenagers have to deal with at puberty
Both girls and boys have to deal with the changes that occur during this stage. They include
- Changes in body shape
- People reacting differently towards you, for instance if you are tall for your age, some people may expect you to behave like an adult or if you are still small for your Age, they may treat you like a small child. Some people may talk to the teenager in an embarrassing manner or touch them when they don’t want to be touched.
- Teenagers experience mixed up feelings and moods during this stage. This is related to hormonal changes in the body of the child and it is difficult for them and their parents to deal with these changes unless there is understanding.
- Also teenagers experience changes in the way they think. They are no longer children and are transitioning into adulthood which brings about a lot of crises with themselves and with parents and teachers.
Ultimately, puberty is a rather trying and an exciting time for teenagers. It’s the time they discover themselves and evolve into adults. At this stage, parental understanding and support is necessary to deal with the challenges that this stage brings about. Children also need guidance as this is the period when they become sexually active and can fall pregnant or contract STIs. These changes also affect children performance in school if they do not cope well with it.