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Puberty

A guide to the stages of puberty

If you think back to when you went through puberty, you'll remember that it's not something you wanted anybody to notice. You probably felt awkward and embarrassed about the changes you were going through and wanted to get past them as quickly as possible. As a parent, it's important to recognize your child's journey and learn about the different stages of puberty.

Stages to expect with boys:

  1. At about 10 years, male hormones start to develop, but outward signs are not yet visible. Testicles start to mature and many boys have growth spurts at this time. Early puberty would occur earlier than this, but it is hard to tell that a boy is developing until he begins to show outward signs, like in stage 2 and beyond. Also called "precocious puberty."
  2. By 12 to 13 years, the testicles and scrotum begin to enlarge, but the penis size remains fairly stable. Some pubic hair begins to grow and overall body size continues to increase.
  3. At 13 to 14, the penis grows in length, but not width. Pubic hair will get darker and thicker. This is also the time when a male's voice starts to get deeper, but this happens over a long period of time. Many boys experience voice cracking. The body and face shape start to look more adult.
  4. At 14 to 15 years, the penis width starts to increase and testicles continue to grow. This is when most boys experience their first ejaculations, begin developing underarm hair and notice more facial hair (particularly on the upper lip). Skin will get oilier at this time and the voice will become deeper and more stable.
  5. In the final stage, around 16 years, males are nearing their full height and adult appearance. They will generally need to start shaving around this time.

Stages to expect with girls:

  1. Girls start to change earlier than boys, usually around 8 to 11 years old. This is when a girl's ovaries begin to grow and her hormones start to change. When a girl has progressed to stage 2 or farther before the age of 8 she is considered to be in early puberty. This is also called "precocious puberty."
  2. Around 11 to 12 years old, girls start to show breast growth and will probably have a growth spurt in height and weight. They will also notice the appearance of pubic hair.
  3. At 12 to 13, breast growth continues and the vagina starts to grow. It may begin to discharge a clear or whitish substance which is its own way of cleaning. Many girls get their first menstrual periods around this time as well.
  4. Around 13 to 14, girls will notice a lot more pubic hair as well as the appearance of underarm hair. Some girls will begin ovulating at this time, but many will not experience this until the next stage.
  5. In the final stage, around 15 years, a girl is physically an adult – she will be her full weight and size and will have regular monthly menstrual periods.

Doctor's offices are usually the best place to start looking for resources on puberty and teen health issues – for both you and your teen! Libraries also have excellent collections of books on puberty. Teens may feel most comfortable visiting websites for the answers to their questions and information on planning for puberty, so research a list of credible sites such as kidshealth.com.

For some teens, reaching puberty is just an inevitability to be taken in stride. Others have a harder time and still others might feel triumphant and open about what they are going through. The important thing is to recognize how your child feels about the situation, and treat him or her in an open and comforting manner.

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