Puberty: A Period of Changes and a Test to Parental Patience

Puberty is one of the essential periods in a man's life. It is a period of physical changes when a child is changing into an adult as well as of abrupt emotional expressions naturally related to adolescence. In both sexes, there are changes of the physical structure and signals of required hormonal changes flow from the brain of the adolescent into their genitalia which respond to this signal by producing hormones stimulating growth , function and other changes in the brain and many organs, including the genitalia.

Puberty is also a period that tests diplomatic abilities of the parents and that frequently adds many worries. Psyche of adolescents changes with their realisation of their own personality. Usually, puberty is the time when children rebel against authority, especially against the authority of their parents; they support ideals of their age, make new acquaintances and experience their first loves. However, there is also certain understanding of the other side of adulthood, the necessity of independence, understanding injustice and disappointment.

Why Do Children Enter Puberty Earlier Nowadays?

Children today, both girls and boys, enter into puberty earlier than their parents. Experts say that it is because the overall upbringing style, social influences and lifestyle of the current time has changed. Children today are led to independence and self-confidence that is naturally tolerated in them and they assert it in their natural way. Children gain access to information considered "matters of adults" until recently in a much earlier age than their parents did. Changes of physical features also set in earlier, frequently already around ten or eleven years of age.

Contemporary children are different; they commonly spent hours and hours in front of a computer, virtually communicating with their schoolmates or friends. It seems that the virtual world, communication and friendship are enough for them. When looking back a generation or two, we certainly realise incomparable differences, mainly in terms of freedom of expression and independent conduct, decision-making and engagement. Unfortunately, modern times make the childhood of its children shorter.

What Happens During Puberty? What Are the Differences Between Puberty in Girls and in Boys?

The most essential and visible change of the physical appearance in puberty is that genitalia matures and body hair starts to grow. It is a time of sex hormones production; sperm in boys and eggs in girls. From the physical point of view, puberty is the most sensitive time of our lives.

In girls, genital organs develop and their body gets curved up into womanly shapes, their breasts grow. Hair starts to grow in armpits and in the pubic area. The physiological puberty in girls ends with their first menstruation.

Boys experience increase in their muscle matter and changes in voice - mutation. Hair around their genitalia and in armpits starts to grow as well as facial hair. Boys also experience nocturnal emissions of semen since sperm has already started developing.

How to Help Your Child Handle Puberty

Puberty is a time of revolt and rebellion. It is about searching for your place in the world and in society. The role of parents is to guide their children safely through it, test how far their parental power and authority go. Show the child that there are limitations in the world he/she will have to face. However, the options of influence your child efficiently are often very limited at this time.

Time of Defiance and Search for Independence

As well as small children experiencing their first tantrums, young pubescent boys and girls take over the initiative and actively assert their will, sometimes even at the expense of their parents. Stubborn adolescents gain full attention of their parents when "acting up" and at the same time, they show effects and range of their own decisions in this difficult way. This period is also the time of accelerated growth characterized by abrupt mood swings. The goal of the separation process is physical and psychological independence of the child. Rebellion is an expression of desire to find one's own identity independent from the will of one's parents.

Puberty in Girls

Puberty hits girls a little earlier than in previous generations. The usual onset of puberty in girls today is between ten and twelve years of age. Puberty in girls is a shorter and more compact developmental stage than in boys. In puberty, girls do not grow as much; their bodily proportions balance out. Girls get curvier bodies and more pronounced hips and bigger breasts. With their physical proportions changing, girls also start moving more gracefully. During puberty, there is increasing significance of appearance in girls. They pay much more attention to their looks, to their face, they start wearing make-up, they experiment with their hair, etc. Clothes are also very important for them because they become part of their own identity. It is not unusual that during puberty, girls tend to be dissatisfied with their looks, whether in terms of face or body. They feel unattractive, refused and they feel sad and upset about it. In both sexes, the emotional bond to the parents starts loosening up. In puberty, boys and girls start establishing friendly relationships with their peers and later the relationship with their parents is replaced with a partner relationship.

Puberty in Boys

Puberty in boys is not as clearly outlined as in girls and it tends to be a more long-term matter. Boys usually enter puberty around thirteen years of age. In terms of physical maturing, puberty is a period of fast growth in boys. Legs and arms usually grow faster than the rest of the body. Male body gains a more masculine and square shape, typically represented by broadened shoulders. During puberty boys' muscles grow and thicken. Hair starts to grow all over the body; pubic hair, hair on legs, arms, in armpits. Growth of facial hair is also a significant change. First, facial hair appear above the upper lip, then on the cheeks and on the chin. This hair is soft at first, but hardens over time. With their whole body growing, boys also experience expanding larynx and changes in their voice. The voice changes its quality during puberty and it usually drops an octave lower. The voice change is accompanied by unpleasant side effects - the voice sometimes jumps up or down, sometimes even to very high pitch. Voice usually settles around fifteen years of age.

During puberty, boys also experience enlargement in their testes and they get erection fairly easily. A common phenomenon associated with puberty in boys is nocturnal emission of semen. During sleep, boys experience involuntary erection and subsequent semen emission. Their emotional attachment to their parents loosens up. Boys in puberty begin to establish much more intense attachments with their peers. At the beginning of puberty, boys usually need to have a friendly relationship with another boy, a friend to trust and confide in. Later, this relationship will be replaced with a partner relationship. Sexual desire increases and boys establish their first partner relationships.

How to Form an (Un)Healthy Relationship Between a Child in Puberty

A small child or a child in puberty who encounters displeasure of parents while asserting his/her will may resign on their natural needs. He/she will accept the solution offered and continues to stay immature and dependent because that is how his/her parents like him/her best. He/she sacrifices their own natural needs and they may choose to continue behaving as their parents want him/her. Parents are happy and the child as well, but the progress in the separation process stops cold.

So why do parents behave in this way when it is clearly not good for the child's natural development? Usually, they do it because the father or the mother or even both parents fear that they will not be able to handle a rebellious and defiant child. Letting a child grow up means letting go of the control over his/her life. Such an idea is difficult for some parents and so they continue to remain the architects of their child's life and maintain the responsibility for him/her and control his/her life situations. Such a parental relationship is often a product of worries of the present as well as of the far future of their children.

How to Handle Puberty of Your Child?

The most important things in this period of parenting are good nerves, calmness and patience. Reality is sometimes much more difficult than the parent could have imagined and so do not get angry with yourself if you slip occasionally or raise your voice to your son or daughter. It will go better next time and if you feel you really crossed a line, it would be good to apologize to your pubescent child.

  • Set some rules that are necessary to observe. However, be careful not to be overly strict or violate privacy of your child.
  • Respect the adolescent, his/her opinions and privacy.
  • Make time for your children; it is well possible that he or she will not be too interested in communicating with you, but he/she should know that you are still there for him/her if they need you.
  • Remember your own puberty and try looking at things from a detached point of view.
  • Find time for yourself and some rest. Your children are growing; there will come a time when they leave your houe and so it is perhaps a good time for you to find some new hobbies or catch up on things you did not have time for in the past. Also, spend more time with your partner and avoid discussions on your son or daughter in puberty.
  • Notice behaviour and expressions of your children. Do not check on them too often, but be careful enough to catch his or her possibly risky behaviour.
  • Do not take everything your son or daughter says to you to heart; they have not thought through many of those things and they certainly do not mean them.

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