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Preparing Kids for Puberty

Puberty is the stage of life when your child's body starts going through physical changes as it becomes sexually mature and capable of reproduction. For most girls, this is typically between the ages 8 and 13. For most boys, this is typically between the ages 9 and 14. The earliest sign you might see in girls is the development of breast "buds," which are tiny bumps under the nipple. You might also notice coarser body and pubic hair growing. Menstruation usually begins 2 years after the start of puberty, with the average age in America being 12.  The first of puberty in boys is testicular enlargement.  Boys will also start to grow pubic hair and the size of their testicles and scrotal sac usually doubles. Body shape and muscle mass changes in both boys and girls during puberty.

Many of these changes can bring about uncertainty in kids. As a parent, it's important to talk to your child about these new changes and prepare them in advance.  Please continue reading for information about physical development during puberty, some of the concerns your child might have, and how to answer their questions.

When breast development begins to develop, kids might feel anxious and self-conscious. Girls and boys might experience soreness and tenderness, and sometimes in girls, one breast starts developing before the other, causing the sizes of the breasts to be different. Let your children know that this is normal. There are different types of clothes and training bras that can disguise breast development to make your child feel more comfortable. 

Growth spurts are also common during puberty. At some point, kids may grow faster in a shorter period while other times, their growth will be slower. Generally, girls start growing taller before boys do, particularly in middle school. However, after a couple of years, most boys surpass girls in height. Genetics is a major factor in a child's growth and height, but nutrition is an important factor for normal growth processes. As kids go through rapid growth and development, their calorie intake will need to be higher. However, they should still not consume calories that exceed those expended to avoid weight problems. Make sure your child is staying physically active and that they're eating a well-balanced diet that supports healthy development.  

As girls start to grow body hair, they might express interest in hair removal such as shaving or waxing. Boys might also want to shave, especially if they grow facial hair. This is a personal preference for each individual child.  However, if your kid chooses to shave, it's important that they're taught how to do so safely. Shaving, for example, can cause cuts, razor burns, and infections from irritation, if not done carefully. Make sure your child knows safe shaving practices such as wetting the skin first, applying light pressure, and replacing the razor or blade frequently. Let them know that razors should never be shared to avoid the risk of infections. Alternatively, kids can use electric shavers instead.

During puberty, the vocal cords grow and the voice box enlarges. This can cause a crack in the voice which some kids might feel embarrassed about. Let your child know that this is just a normal part of the growth process. When girls approach their first period, they might have a lot of questions about what to expect. Take the time to have conversations with them to help them feel prepared and ease any anxiety they might have. It's also important to talk to your daughter about healthy hygiene practices during menstruation and how to use menstrual products like pads or tampons. If your child expresses concern about menstrual cramps and discomfort, let them know about helpful home remedies such as using a hot water bottle or heating pad. When these don't work or aren't available, your daughter can take an over-the-counter painkiller such as Ibuprofen (Motin/Advil). 

In some cases, puberty can start too early or too late in children. If you notice signs of early or late puberty or have any concerns, call our office to speak with our providers. We are also here to support your family with any questions or concerns about physical development during the puberty years.

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