Puberty – What to Expect and How to Help Your Child

Posted at 4:55 PM on Jun 7, 2022


I asked one of my teen daughters if she had any advice for this article about puberty. She replied, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that!” Puberty has never been easy to talk about. And no one looks back fondly on this stage of life. It can be a tough time for any child. Their bodies are physically changing, their hormones are going wild, and they are likely left feeling moody. However, it is also an exciting time as we see our once little ones continue to grow up right before our eyes.  

What is Puberty, What to Expect, and How to Help Your Child 

Puberty, simply put, is the process through which an adolescent achieves sexual maturity. This typically occurs between ages 10 and 14 for girls and ages 12 and 16 for boys. Puberty does not happen overnight. It will occur in stages over a couple years time. It’s important to note that every child is different, and ages will vary. Ensure your child sees their physician if you have concerns about their development. 

Puberty can be classified into sexual maturity stages which include:

Stage 1 – Prepubertal, before visible changes occur.  

Stage 2 – Visible physical changes usually begin between age 9 and 11. In girls, this includes the beginning of breast bud development, dark color around the nipple (areola), and fine pubic hair may develop. In boys, the testicles and skin around the testicles (scrotum) begin to get bigger and fine pubic hair may develop.

Stage 3 – Physical stages continue, often around age 12 and 13. In females, breasts grow, pubic hair gets thicker and curlier, hair starts forming under the armpits, acne may appear on the face and back. Girls experience growth in height, and hips and thighs begin to build up fat. In boys, the penis gets longer, testicles grow, and wet dreams may occur (ejaculation at night). Their voice begins to change, and muscles get larger, height growth spurt occurs. 

Stage 4 – Between age 13 and 14, puberty is in full swing. Females will typically have had their first period by this time. Males will grow armpit hair, develop acne, and the deeper voice becomes permanent.  

Stage 5 – This final stage is where your child will reach their sexual maturity and be fully developed from a puberty standpoint.  

How You Can Help Your Child

Don’t be afraid to have conversations with your child about the changes that will occur with their bodies. Talk to them! If they are especially uncomfortable with these conversations, provide them with appropriate resources they can review either on their own, or with you. It will help your child know in advance what to expect during this time of change. It is important to normalize and support them through this time in their lives. 

Through the ups and downs (hello moodiness!), you can be there for your child. Let them know that you are there to listen and answer any questions they might have about the changes they are going through. You can also work to set a good example. Showing your child body acceptance through your everyday actions and demonstrate how to deal with emotions in healthy ways. 

Your child will likely need more privacy than they once did. Allow them that privacy, within reason. Many times, they may not want to talk to you. Keep talking to them! Catch them when they are willing to share – about who they sit with at lunch, if they need help studying for a math test, what their friends are up to, how they are doing otherwise.   

Also, be sure you keep up with routine well child/teen visits to ensure everything is progressing normally. Encourage them to speak with their doctor. A physician is a perfect resource for your child to openly ask questions without feeling embarrassed. As children hit their teen years, we typically encourage time during their visit without a parent present.  

Puberty will be tough (for both of you!) but remember it will end at some point. Every parent goes through this with their children. You are not alone and it’s important to remind your child that they are not alone either.