What is Puberty?
Puberty is the time between childhood and adulthood when girls' and boys' bodies change rapidly as they grow into young women and men.
Everyone's body changes at different times and at different rates. Some young people start puberty when they are nine, 10, or 11 years old. Others start when they are in their middle to late teens. Generally, girls start puberty before boys. Caused by chemicals in the body called hormones, puberty does not happen overnight. It can last for a few years.
During puberty, girls and boys experience many changes.They often wonder if they are "normal." Changes include a growth spurt, increased pubic and underarm hair, acne, and the development of sweat glands.They also often experience a rollercoaster of emotions-feeling happy one minute and angry the next.
During puberty, girls' bodies change shape. Breasts develop and hips widen. Menstruation starts-making it possible for those that have intercourse to get pregnant.
During puberty, boys grow facial hair, develop deeper voices, grow larger penises, and begin to make sperm -making it possible for them to father a child if they have intercourse.
Puberty is a time when young people often want more independence and privacy.Their relationships with friends and family often change.They may develop crushes, begin to date, experience sexual feelings, face peer pressure, and struggle with body image and self-esteem.
Following are some typical questions about sexuality from students in fifth and sixth grade classes. It can be helpful for parents and caregivers to practice answering these questions before talking with their children.
"Why do we have to go through puberty?"
"Does puberty hurt?"
"What is a sign that puberty is starting?"
"Why do we get hair on our privates?"
"How can people get a 'six pack' in their stomachs?"
"What is masturbation?"
Questions about Girls' Bodies
"When do girls grow breasts and why?"
"Why do girls have a period?"
"How do you know you're beginning to get your period?"
"How old do you have to be to get your period?"
"Is it true that girls have one breast smaller than the other?"
"What if you have your period; is it better to use a tampon or pad?"
Reprinted with the permission of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. © 2005 SIECUS.
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