Just like Stage 3, we see a lot of physical changes within our young person during Stage 4. And, at this stage, we might not consider the term “young person” as the most appropriate anymore. Instead, the terms “teen” or “teenager” may work better because this stage usually occurs at ages 13 and 14. During this stage, many teenagers notice:
- Thicker pubic hair – pubic hair can grow more curly and coarse.
- For many females assigned at birth:
- Their first period (menarche) occurs between the ages of 12 and 14, although some get it much earlier. Clear or white vaginal discharge may appear up to 6 months prior to getting the first period.
- Breasts getting fuller
- For many males assigned at birth:
- Their penis, scrotum, and testicles getting bigger and the scrotum sac becoming darker in color
- A deeper voice becoming more apparent
- Acne may be appearing due to sebaceous glands under the skin becoming more active and pores in the skin getting clogged, leading to acne.
- Noticeable armpit hair growing
Also, because so many physical changes have occurred and continue to occur, your teen may become increasingly aware of their body image as well as other’s bodies.
Supporting Your Teen and YOU!
To successfully support your teen and you, let’s break down what you can do specifically for the noted changes occurring during this stage:
- Due to your teen needing more privacy, you will probably not see the increased thickness of pubic hair. Yet, you might choose to have a conversation about how to properly care for this hair, including when it gets more “bushy.” Just like other body hair getting trimmed at times for some people, pubic hair can also be maintained in different ways.
- For body shape changes, continue discussing with your young person their preference for different clothing requests. A young person who may not have cared about clothing before may now have more preferences as their body continues to change and they become more responsible or attracted to others.
- Become a positive-period/menstruation household. Discuss with all family members the available supplies for anyone with a menstrual cycle, including where they are kept. Even if a household member does not experience a period, knowing what periods are and where supplies are located is helpful and supports the importance of everyone’s health. Note: This can also be done at an earlier time/stage, depending upon what young people are experiencing in your household.
- Keep on reminding family members of healthy hygiene habits, including the need to wash one’s face in the morning and evening, as well as after fitness activities. Making sure and reminding your preteen is practicing healthy nutritional habits such as eating plenty of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables..
- If your teen is concerned about acne, visit BLOOM’s Healthy Skincare section for tips and tools for managing.
- Be prepared for some embarrassment regarding certain life events. Suddenly experiencing a voice “crack” or a new pimple in the middle of a family member’s forehead is not always a comfortable occurrence for young people or their caregivers. Add on getting a period unexpectedly or a spontaneous erection… and that can increase anxiety and embarrassment. Therefore, remind everyone of household expectations including how to act loving and kind to one another and how to tell another person when their “joking comments” have gone too far.
- Have honest conversations about the realities of body image. This honesty includes discussing the numerous media images we see displaying many unhealthy and unrealistic shapes and sizes. To further support this:
- Encourage your teen and yourself in trying a variety of physical fitness activities to learn how to love moving their/your bodies. Physical activity releases specific “feel-good” hormones which help us enjoy and appreciate our bodies.
- Explore resources that note the unrealistic photo-altering that dramatically change the images in many social media accounts and advertisements.
- Limit access to social media accounts. This act may seem really challenging, yet research with your teen on how technology can be helpful yet also hurtful. For example, the more time teenagers spend on social media accounts, there is the increased likelihood of depression. Also, check out the psychology behind social media platforms and what these corporations really care about.
- Connect your teen with a health professional if they are displaying unhealthy body image habits including starving themselves, hiding food, obsessive use of social media, and excessive exercise.
Talking with Your Teen
Keep on reaching out to your teen. Even if they seem more private or their bedroom door is closed more often, they still need us. Some conversation starters during this stage are:
- What do you need me to buy at the store? I am going to the [supermarket, drug store, mall].
- Are there any new clubs or other activities you want to become more involved in? You may also want to leave a community flyer of youth events out for your teen to explore.
- How can our family be healthier physically? Emotionally? Mentally? Socially?