Helping Teens Answer the Question "Who Am I?": Physical Development (page 3)

By — University of Florida IFAS Extension
Updated on Jan 2, 2009

Tips for Agents and Parents

Now that we have a sense of some of the important physical changes that occur during adolescence, we can use this information to help us better understand teens. It will also help us recognize their sensitive thoughts and feelings. And we can use it to help us direct them toward positive behavior and outcomes.

By the beginning of late adolescence, many of these changes are nearing completion. This allows teens to gain more acceptance and ownership of their body image. By reminding ourselves of these changes, we can become more sensitive to teens' growth experiences and treat them with the respect, compassion and consideration that will help them move smoothly through these physical transitions.

Parents can help their children by providing support and by being understanding and tactful during discussions about these changes. Preparing one's children for the initial onset of puberty (menarche for girls and spermarche for boys) will let them know what to expect. It will also minimize any stress and shame that they may feel without adequate preparation. The approach to this preparation should be gentle, but informative. It may be given in a manner that is very positive, explaining that these events are "normal" and everyone experiences them once in their life. Once the child understands that this is part of the path to adolescence and a rite of passage, they will view these changes with minimal stress and maximum acceptance.


Arnett, Jeffrey J. (2001). Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Berk, Laura E. (2000) Child Development, 5th Edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Wheeler, M.D. (1991). Physical changes of puberty. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America, 20, 1-14. 


1. This document is FCS2240, one of a series of the Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date December 6, 2005. Visit the EDIS Web Site at

2. Rosemary V. Barnett, assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension service.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Larry Arrington, Dean.

Copyright Information

This document is copyrighted by the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) for the people of the State of Florida. UF/IFAS retains all rights under all conventions, but permits free reproduction by all agents and offices of the Cooperative Extension Service and the people of the State of Florida. Permission is granted to others to use these materials in part or in full for educational purposes, provided that full credit is given to the UF/IFAS, citing the publication, its source, and date of publication.

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