Supporting Your Teenager During Puberty

Puberty marks a period of changes that your child goes through as they begin the transition into adulthood. During this period, parents should understand the changes that occur in their teenager and how to support their changing needs.

What should parents expect?

Throughout puberty, teenagers experience numerous changes. Generally, physical changes experienced by most children include increased perspiration, oily skin and development of acne, oily hair, and growth spurts. However, specific physical changes can vary depending on different genders (Table 1).

Table 1: Common Physical Puberty Changes
Male Female
· Vocal changes (deeper voice)

· Changes in the size of the testes and penis

· Hair growth (facial, pubic, armpit, etc.)

· Weight gain and muscle growth

· Broadening of shoulders

· Breast development

· Functional development of the ovaries

· Hair growth (pubic, armpit, etc.)

· Weight gain

· Widening of hips

· Start of period (menstruation)

In addition to physical changes, hormones released during puberty can also cause social and emotional changes. As such, parents should expect their teenager to go through mood swings, changes in energy levels, and many more (Table 2).

Table 2: Common Social/Emotional Changes During Puberty
· Changes in identity (e.g. trying out new clothes and styles, listening to new music, etc.)

· Increased need for independence (e.g. getting ready for school themselves, looking to take on more responsibility, etc.)

· Increased sensitivity (e.g. being more sensitive about how they look, being more private about their personal life, etc.)

· Seeking new experiences (i.e. more risk-taking behaviours)

Tips to support your teen during puberty

  • Open communication. Create a safe and non-judgemental environment for your teenager. This can help encourage them to openly talk to you about the changes and challenges they are experiencing.
  • Stay calm and be patient. As your teenager is going through numerous emotional changes, parents should expect things like mood swings and emotional outbursts. It is important to be empathetic, stay calm, and be patient when dealing with their changing emotions.
  • Provide reassurance. Encourage and praise your teenager when they show positive behaviours, achievements, or efforts, rather than scolding them or focusing on their negative behaviours.
  • Encourage independence. As your teenager grows up, provide them with age-appropriate opportunities for independence. For example, getting ready for school by themselves, packing their own lunch for school, planning their own academic schedules, etc.
  • Offer guidance and emotional support. Offer guidance and advice when your teenager faces challenges (e.g. friendship, academic, or relationship problems) if they need it. Let your teenager know you are there for them and that they can always turn to you for support.
  • Seek professional help. If your teenager begins to experience changes that severely impact their day-to-day activities (e.g. severe acne, developing mental health disorders, abnormal physical development, etc.), seek help from an appropriate healthcare professional.

 Puberty is a transformative period for teenagers, marked by physical, emotional, and social changes. By understanding the different changes that occur in teenagers during puberty, and preparing for them, parents can better support their teenager during this crucial period of change.

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