Welcome to Puberty

Teen Puberty – Welcome to Puberty

Welcome to Puberty

Written by Lori Reichel, Ph.D.

  |  Reviewed by Hina J. Talib, MD

Imagine you wake up one day and realize your body has been changing here and there.
Actually, you notice a lot of changes, including:

  • New hair growth in places that did not have hair before, like in your underwear and armpit area.
  • Feelings of soreness or pain, even if you didn’t exercise. These “growing pains” may be felt in your legs, particularly the calves, thighs, or behind the knees.
  • Your pants or jeans are becoming shorter even though they were able to touch your shoes just three months ago.
    Pimples on your face and oily skin.
  • Some stinky odor… maybe your caregiver is telling you to shower more.
  • Tingling feelings in your genitals when you think about or talk to the person you have a crush on.
  • Feeling more annoyed at a comment, situation, or person that didn’t bother you before.
  • Sleep changes.
  • Wanting more space or alone time.
What do you think is happening?

Odds are, you are going through puberty and entering adolescence. And the truth is that it doesn’t matter what your name is, what body parts you have, your skin color, where you are from or live now, your IQ, your religion, or your beliefs, these changes usually happen to everyone. And they signify that you are beginning the process of developing into an adult.

What is adolescence?

Adolescence is the period of time when a young person goes from being a child into an adult.

What is a preteen?

Young people ages 8 to 12 are typically referred to as preteens because you are going from being a child to a teenager and then an adult. This means you are entering adolescence and likely experiencing puberty. Or, put another way, you are “between” two times of your life.

So what is puberty?

Puberty is the developmental phase of a child’s body maturing into an adult’s body. This phase begins during your preteen years and is very important, as it starts the possibility for reproductive potential or the ability to create and have a baby.

Who experiences these changes?

Most preteens (ages 8 to 12) usually experience a variety of these changes; however, some may not experience these changes until 13 or 14. It is also important to note that people with characteristics of intersex may experience these stages/ puberty symptoms differently. Someone who is intersex developed one or more bodily characteristics that don’t fit neatly into stereotypes about “male” or “female” bodies. Intersex people are born with these differences or develop them in childhood. There are a wide range of variations that are possible compared to the usual two ways that human bodies develop. To learn more about Intersex individuals and navigating the changes of puberty click here.

What do most preteens experience during puberty & adolescence?

Awesome question! There are a variety of changes preteens experience including:

  • Physical body changes of:
    • Growth spurts- growing taller and experiencing a change in body weight
    • Overall body size and shape changes
    • Soreness or “growing” pains
    • Hair growth in new areas
    • An increase in sweating
    • An increase in body odor
    • Pimples
    • More oily skin, including on the scalp
    • Voice changes
    • Genitals becoming bigger
    • Sexual feelings
  • In addition, many assigned females at birth experience:
    • Breast development
    • Vaginal discharge begins
    • Their first menstrual cycle or period
    • Widening of hips and more curvy shape
  • In addition, many assigned males at birth experience:
    • More noticeable voice changes with Adam’s apple enlargement (bulge in the throat)
    • Wet dreams (nocturnal emissions – sperm ejaculation during sleep )
    • Erections at different times during the day and night
Other changes to Expect

  • Emotional changes include feeling moody more often.
  • Mental changes in which personal decision making becomes more important. Preteens usually take on more responsibilities, become more independent, and may even question the values and beliefs they were raised with.
  • Social changes like wanting to spend more time with friends and peers, needing alone time, and having more interest in romantic and/or sexual crushes.
When will these changes happen?

When these changes happen varies from person to person, just like how corn kernels “pop” at different times when popcorn is being prepared. Most preteens begin experiencing body changes anytime from ages 8 to 14, with some really noticing these changes at age 11 or 12.

Why is there such a range of when things happen?

There are a bunch of things that seem to affect when a preteen experiences changes. These include your family genes, nutrition, food additives, environmental factors, distressors, and other factors. What is most important is to not compare yourself to others— instead embrace who you are and the changes you experience!

When will these changes end?

It depends upon the preteen. The physical changes of puberty usually take 2 to 5 years. For most individuals, puberty ends by the time they reach their late teens.

Why do these changes happen?

Our bodies go through these changes to become adult-sized and functioning. And, if a person chooses to, and is able to have a baby.

How do you deal with these changes?

Great question! The number one recommendation for coping is to have a growth mindset. According to Dr. Carol Dweck, (a really smart person who studies people and psychology) having a growth mindset is choosing to be positive about your qualities and experiences. Applying a growth mindset to the changes you will experience during puberty and adolescence means:

  • Keeping a positive attitude!
  • Embracing and learning when you feel challenged and not giving up!
  • Putting real effort into the things you want to learn and be better at!
  • Talking and connecting with others who can help you keep positive and are role models of being happy, successful, and healthy!
  • Reaching out to a trusted person when you need to learn a new hygienic skill, like if you want to shave.

There are a variety of other coping skills you can use to help you feel positive. For example, if you are not feeling like yourself one day, note when you feel this way and then do something that you know will help you feel better. For example, you could play with your dog, help another person, play a sport, or exercise. All of these things release “feel good” hormones in your body.

It is also important to consider that those who do not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth can experience some emotional difficulty, confusion, angst, and body dysmorphia if they are developing in a way that is not aligned with how they feel inside. If this is the case, you are not alone. Speak with a trusted adult about accessing resources that are available to you to help navigate your feelings and experience during puberty. You can also explore BLOOM’s Gender Identity page to learn more and find supportive resources.

If you feel concerned, anxious, or some other uncomfortable feeling, remember these things:

  • Everyone grows at their own rate, just like each kernel of popcorn “pops” at their own time.
  • There are trusted adults you can talk with about your feelings. These adults include parents, guardians, teachers, coaches, school counselors, and other adults you feel comfortable with. These adults have experienced puberty and adolescence so they can be a great set of “ears” to listen to your concerns and give advice.
  • The changes of puberty can take several years.
  • As you get older, you get to do more cool things as you get more responsible. This includes taking leadership roles in clubs and sport teams, getting a part-time job, and forming romantic relationships.
  • If you are feeling down for a few days in a row, talk with a trusted adult. You are important and deserve to feel well and happy!

Explore more about Puberty!