The Onset of Puberty
Puberty is the biggest growth spurt that your child will go through since
their infant years. The body is changing from a child’s body to an adult’s body.
The age that puberty starts varies greatly between
children and starts much earlier for girls than boys. On average the physical changes of
puberty can start between 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys. The changes are both
physical and emotional and are related to the growth spurt and changes in their
The pituitary gland has began to release hormones which are telling the body to
change. For boys, this hormone is testosterone, for girls,
the hormone is estrogen. As well as physical changes
puberty is also associated with great emotional and social changes. Children can feel
emotions intensely and at times it can be rollercoaster of emotion and mood swings with
pronounced highs and lows. In addition, children can become much more self-conscious
socially and feel more acutely the pressures to fit in and be accepted by
So how do you help them, and you, to get through
this difficult and fractious time?
The key to helping your child is to make sure that they are
aware of and understand the changes that they are physically experiencing
and to ensure that you keep communication active with them to help them through the physical
and emotional changes they are experiencing. This will require a lot of
patience as the teenage moodiness and mood swings can be very hard to tolerate
King! Make sure that your child has all the information that they need to understand what is
happening. Consider the following:
Check with the school as to what sex
education has been given
Check bookstores for a book that is
suitable for your child’s age
Try to get a copy of Busy Bodies from
Talk to your child and if they have
questions, try to answer them as clearly as you can
Some of the physical changes can be embarrassing
for your child so discuss what these could be. The following is a short list of common changes during
For both boys and
- Pubic hair on genitals and
- Growth spurt – may feel awkward (e.g. my feet
are too big)
- Perspiration in underarms and feeling a bit
- Skin problems such as spots or
- Greasy hair
In addition, depending on sex, your child will also
Development of breasts
Body becoming curvy
Growing chest & facial hair
It is very important that your child is
supported by you throughout this phase of development. They are probably
confused and embarrassed about the physical changes to their body and also upset by their
feelings of highs and lows for no apparent reason. Explain the physical changes
and reassure your child that what they are experiencing is normal for young people their
age. Remember, communication is the vital so keep that link active with your
some of the following:
Set aside one to one time with
your child each day.
Don’t be discouraged if they seem a bit reluctant at first – just
keep trying by simple things like watching a program with them, taking an interest in the things
they like such as sport, music etc.
Try to share an activity with
Perhaps helping them out with fixing their bike, asking them to help
you prepare a meal, asking them for their opinion on something.
Encourage them –
comment on how well they have done something, how nice they look, how much you appreciated their
help with something and so on.
Listen very carefully
and make sure that you understand what they are saying. Use techniques
such as reflective listening to ensure that you understand and that they know that you understand
what they are saying.
See www.HelpMe2Parent.ie/article link for tips on this
Recognise and let them
know that you recognise and respect that they are getting
older. Maybe you can chat about extra pocket money, a later bedtime, more
This will be very encouraging to the child and will help their self
esteem to improve.
Don’t forget the T.L.C.
– we all need it!
Usually puberty lasts about 4 to 5
you are concerned at any stage about your son/daughter, speak to your GP. Don’t just take it for
granted that it is part of puberty – if the physical changes or mood swings are a problem then discuss with
the GP and take his/her advice.