Puberty

What is puberty?

Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. It is initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads: the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy. (Wikipedia) The process lasts for around 4 years, and starts as early as 8 in girls and as early as 10 in boys. Puberty is one aspect of sex education that students generally learn in schools; hence parents don’t invest their time in telling their kids about puberty. However, the absence of sex education classes in India has left this task on the able shoulders of ‘that’mate.

What happens during puberty?

Both girls and boys go through a series of physical and emotional changes during this process. Many kids think whether the changes happening to them are normal. The onset of puberty varies among individuals. It could be dependent on both genetic and environmental factors are likely involved in the timing of puberty. The onset of the puberty also depends on the body fat or body composition of the individual. Some individuals go through an early onset of puberty which is termed as precocious puberty, it occurs both in boys and girls.

 

What are the physical stages of puberty in girls and boys?

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In girls the first sign of puberty is usually the growth of their breasts. Pubic hair and hair on legs and arms start to grow too. Around 18-20 months later girls usually have their first period. A few of girls have hair on the upper part of the lip and under arms. Many girls get acne . They also have a white vaginal discharge. This is completely normal.

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Most girls gain weight, they stop growing tall after around 4 years of puberty. Girls develop body fat along most of their body parts like their upper arms, thighs and upper back. Their hips grow rounder and waist gets narrower.

Menstruation is one of the major stages of puberty in girls. It’s the onset of womanhood in girls. It prepares a girl’s body so that she can bear a child. Many girls don’t completely understand the reason behind menstruation. They even don’t understand a women’s reproductive system completely. That can make the process seem even more mysterious and confusing for both girls and guys.

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What is menstruation?

Menstruation is a woman’s monthly bleeding. In menstruation body sheds the lining of the uterus (womb). Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix and passes out of the body through the vagina. Menstrual periods last from 3 to 5 days. The average menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days long. Women undergo rise and fall of levels of hormones during the menstrual cycle.

What happens during the menstrual cycle?

Estrogen helps the lining of the uterus to grow and to thicken. This lining of helps nourish the embryo if a pregnancy occurs. At the same time the lining of the womb is growing, an egg, or ovum, in one of the ovaries starts to mature. At about day 14 of an average 28-day cycle ovulation occurs, the egg leaves the ovary.

The egg then travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. Hormone levels change and thus preparing the lining for pregnancy. During these 3 days a woman is most likely to get pregnant if the egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm. If the egg is not fertilized, it will break apart. The hormonal level drops, and the thickened lining of the uterus is shed during the menstrual period.

 

In boys the first sign of puberty is that their testicles get bigger and the scrotum begins to thin and redden. Pubic hair also starts to appear at the base of the penis. Their voice breaks, they get wet dreams (involuntary ejaculation at night), they have hair growth at different body parts like under arms and pubic hair.

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Mood changes in puberty

Puberty may be an excruciating experience for some kids. They deal with a lot of physical changes like change in body odor, acne and weight issues. They may even go through depression, low self-esteem, aggression or unexplained mood swings

How to inform kids about puberty and the changes they are going through?

It never too early to start talking to your kids about puberty. It’s better to prepare children about the physical and emotional changes they will go through after the onset of puberty. Kids will have all sort of questions, however don’t wait for your child to come to you with questions, they may never come, because they don’t know its OK talk to you about this sensitive topic.

These days, kids are exposed to so much information about sex either from TV or from Internet, that they generally know things forehand. Yet, talking about the issues of puberty remains an important job for parents because everything on the Internet is not reliable.

You can start talking to your kids as early as they are 3 years old. You can inform them about good touch and bad touch. You can ask your kids following questions and then try answering them if they struggle:

Why are the differences between a girls’ and a boys’ body?

What do we call the different parts of girls’ and boys’ bodies?

Where do babies come from?

How are your friends similar or different to you?

Which parts of my body are private?

What is a safe zone?

Who all are in the safe zone?

Whom to tell when somebody touches your private parts?

How can I say ‘no’ if someone wants to touch me?

Whom should I tell if someone touches or wants to touch my private parts?

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