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Adolescence And Puberty
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They start with testicular growth, followed by hair and penile growth,
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Adolescence and puberty is a phase of development where you have a massive growth, both physically and emotionally, and it correlates with boys and girls having an increase in hormones in their bodies. Boys and girls go through puberty a little differently, with different stages of development. Girls start puberty a little earlier, at around 7 to 8 years of age, whereas boys may start around 8 or 9. It's important for parents to start talking about these changes in their children's bodies before puberty even happens, because they can be scary for the children if they don't know what's going on.
In girls, the order or puberty is usually that they develop breast buds first, then they develop pubic hair, then they go through their growth spurt, and then their menses. It's important to talk about these changes, before and as they occur, so that girls know what to look forward to. Now, with boys, it's a little different. They start with testicular growth, followed by hair and penile growth, and then finally their growth spurt. On average, boys' growth spurts are two years after girls, and that's why in grade school all the girls were so much taller. The interesting thing is, if you start your growth spurt earlier, you actually end up shorter, for the most part, and that's why boys end up taller than girls. It's important, again, to talk to both girls and boys about puberty.
There are some things that you should do to get your child ready for puberty. Because of the increase in hormones, they're going to have new emotions during puberty that you want to talk to them about, maybe feelings for the opposite sex. They may sweat more during puberty and have new odours, especially after exercising. So it's important to talk about hygiene during puberty, including the fact that we need to bathe and shower once a day now, do a really good job brushing our teeth and we may have to wear deodorant. And talk about their emotions that they feel during puberty as well.
If you think your child's starting puberty too early or too late it should be evaluated by a doctor. There is a wide range of when puberty can happen. But if they're starting with any of these developmental puberty things early, a doctor can see that with a physical exam and maybe with some bloodwork looking at the hormones in their body.
Adolescents have unique issues that are different from all other age groups. So, we try to focus on a whole range of areas that effect their lives during this time. And most doctors will do what's called a HEADS exam and that's an acronym that stands for: H is home where you ask adolescents about thier home life and make sure everything's going well, see how the other relationships are with their parents, their siblings, there's not excessive fighting or hitting or abuse. The E stands for education and talking about how they're doing at school, how their interactions are with peers, how their grades are, have they stayed steady, are they dropping off, are they working hard, are they getting help with their homework. The A stands for activities and just to see what extracurricular activities they're involved in. Are they playing sports, are they part of the drama team, and who are the people that they're hanging out with doing these activities, have they joined a gang. The D stands for drugs. And you want to ask all adolescents about any drug use that they may have done or been exposed to, as well as alcohol and cigarettes. And the S stands for two things. And one is suicidal thoughts or ideations. It's really something to bring up with all teenagers becuase there are a lot of stressors put on our teenagers today and you won't know unless you ask, so sort of get an idea of how they're feeling and if they've had any of those thoughts. And again, we said, S stands for sex--which is have they had any interest in the same sex, in the opposite sex. Have they had any sexual interactions. And you really want to be specific and talk about the differences between oral sex and vaginal sex, even anal sex, transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, using protection. So that you can talk to them about that, and make sure, that again, the parents are talking to these children about it, as well. It's really important and gaining the adolescents' trust is the most important thing. These are issues that are between you and them and we don't tell the parents, we don't tell their next door neighbor or their friends. It really is one on one so they really feel they can open up with us, and we can help curb any negative behaviors as we see them.
I don't think it's ever too early to discuss puberty with your child. I think you can gage when to speak about puberty based on your child's development. If you start seeing the puberty development like the breast development or hair growth, that would be a good time to start talking about it. A lot of children have taken sex education, or have started talking about their bodies in school as early as 5th grade, so as you hear they're doing it in school that's a good stepping stone to say lets talk about puberty further. And you can preempt before they even talk about puberty in school, or before they hear it from their friends. Always talk about their bodies and about the changes that's going on during puberty, even if you're a year or two early on it. It makes it nice for the child so that when they see it if, just like anything else, we've heard about it, they don't worry so much about it when they see puberty taking place.
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