It's a normal phase of development, still puberty is never easy. But it doesn't have to be terrible, either. Your role as parents or caregivers is to prepare your children for the changes ahead, and guide them through the tough or scary times. It's a journey that's several years in the making, but at the end you'll have a better understanding of the adult your child is eventually to become, and your own feelings about what it means to see your tween change right before your eyes into a teenager.
The Physical Changes
Growth spurts, acne, and so much more. Here's what you need to know to support your tween through this time in his life. Know what to expect when your child's body begins to change, and help your tween understand menstruation, shaving, hygiene and more. At some point during the tween years, a girl will begin to experience the stages of puberty.
Knowing what to look for can ease your mind, and help your tween through these enormous physical and emotional changes.
The Signs of Puberty in Tween Girls
Below are some of the more typical signs of puberty in girls. Keep in mind that these stages may appear gradually, and it may take three to four years for your child to cycle through all the phases of puberty. In general, boys will go through puberty at some point between the ages of 9 and 14. Girls may begin between the ages of 8 and 12. Share these signs with your tween daughter, so she knows what to expect. Also, be sure you explain how she might handle her first period if you're not around to help, such as when she's at school or away from home.
- Growth Spurts
- Body shape changes as body fat accumulates around the hips, and thighs, giving girls a curvier shape.
- Breast development
- Body odor and skin breakouts due to increased oil gland production.
- Hair growth in the underarm area, on the legs and in the pubic area.
- Menstruation begins, typically around the age of 12.
- Mood swings may begin, punctuated with bouts of anger, sadness, and other emotional fluctuations.
- Romantic feelings and interest in the opposite sex.
- Anxiety and/or excitement about the changes she is going through.
- Concerns over increased responsibility, fitting in socially, and separating from her parents.
Breast development in tween girls can be a source of anxiety. When a girl begins to develop before her friends, she's likely to feel self-conscious and awkward. To make matters worse, her classmates may take to teasing her about her body, adding fuel to the fire.A girl's breasts will begin to develop generally between the ages of 8 and 11 when her breasts begin to bud. There are five stages of breast development in all, but your tween will only experience a few of these stages before reaching adulthood. At times like these girls often try to hide their breast development under baggy clothes, but that can also encourage taunting and teasing.
There are several things you can do to help your daughter through this change. For starters, talk to her about why her body is changing and that this phase of development is normal for girls her age. Point out that all her girlfriends will also go through these changes, and probably sooner rather than later.
If your daughter is more developed physically than other girls her age, it might be a good idea to have her fitted for a bra. Most major department stores offer fittings for free, and they are a good way to make sure that your daughter is wearing a bra that's right for her. If she's too embarrassed to be fitted, you might want to purchase several bras in different sizes in order to find the size that's best for her.
Also, take the time to point out that the girls who are teasing her are doing it to either make themselves look "cool" in front of their friends, or because they are jealous that they haven't begun to develop. Boys who tease her may be doing so to get her attention, or to propel themselves to the top of the social ladder.
Arm your daughter with coping techniques so that when the teasing begins, she'll be better able to manage it. For example, teach her to ignore the comments her classmates make, because if she doesn't react they'll be less likely to continue to tease her. Another possible deterrent to teasing is to make a joke out of it. When someone comments on how her breasts have begun to develop, she could remark, "No kidding, I never would have known, thanks for the tip."
If the teasing takes an ugly turn or doesn't stop, it might be time to contact your child's guidance counselor to ask for help or to intervene.
As tweens begin to change physically it's important for them to understand that your support and love is still there for them. Be sure you take the time to let your daughter know that you're proud of her and her accomplishments, and that you're excited to see her change and grow into a responsible teen.
Menstrual Symptoms Your Tween Should Know
If your tween has already begun to menstruate, or is approaching menstruation, she should be aware of menstrual symptoms that she might experience, as well as how to track her periods so she knows when to expect them.Menstrual symptoms will vary from female to female, and some girls may experience few or none of the typical symptoms that other girls complain about. Others may experience a number of symptoms, emotional or physical, regularly. Keep in mind that not all menstrual symptoms are negative ones. Many women and girls experience a number of positive menstrual symptoms when they are approaching their monthly cycles.
It's important to discuss any menstrual symptoms you may be concerned about with your child's pediatrician. A number of symptoms, such as intense cramps, could be a sign of disease or a gynecological problem.
Menstrual Symptoms: Emotional Changes Girls Might Experience
- Feeling tired or wiped-out
- Feeling moody or sad
- Feeling like you're going to cry
- Feeling impatient or even anxious
- Feeling distracted
- Feeling grumpy
- Feeling glad that you're a girl
- Feeling a bit grossed out by the whole period thing
- Feeling angry that your period is starting at an inconvenient time
- Feeling embarrassed that someone might know you're on your period
- Wanting to be left alone
- Feeling positive
- Feeling feminine
Menstrual Symptoms: Physical Changes Girls Might Experience
- Backache, especially in the lower back
- Aches down the legs or an aching in the hips
- Skin breakouts (pimples, acne)
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Swollen feet or hands
- Being hungry or thirsty (more than normal)
- Craving certain foods, such as salty or sweet foods
- Tender breasts
- Aching joints
- A bloated feeling
- Feeling energetic
- Weight gain
The Signs of Puberty in Tween Boys
At some point during the tween years, a boy may begin to experience the stages of puberty. The relationship between boys and puberty can be complicated for both the child and his parents. Knowing what to look for can ease your mind, and help your tween through these enormous physical and emotional changes.
Below are some of the more typical signs of puberty in boys. Keep in mind that these stages may appear gradually, and it may take several years for your child to completely cycle through all the phases of puberty. In general, boys begin puberty at some point between the ages of 9 and 14. Girls begin puberty between the ages of 8 and 12.
- Growth spurts
- Appearance of facial hair
- Broadening of shoulder muscles, development of chest muscles
- Body odor
- Pimples or facial breakouts
- Hair growth in pubic area and underarm area
- Growth of testicles
- Erections or wet dreams
- Deepening of the voice, although this is more likely in the later stages of puberty
- Interest in the opposite sex
- Mood changes
- Anxiety or excitement about the changes he's going through
- Less talkative and open with parents
- Shy, nervousness around girls, or flirtatious with girls
Why Does a Boy's Voice Change?
Voice change is a normal stage of puberty for boys, but it can be a bit of a mystery when it happens. The reason your son's voice occasionally cracks or sounds squeaky is due to the growth of the voice box, or larynx. Before puberty the voice box is small. During and after puberty, the voice box is bigger and the vocal cords are thicker and longer than they were before puberty - which explains why post-pubescent boys and men have a deep voice and boys do not.
You may physically notice the growth of your son's larynx as an enlargement of his Adam's apple.
How Can I Help My Son Deal with His Voice Change?
Voice change is normal, and there's a chance your son may not even realize that his voice is deepening and lowering. But he may be embarrassed when his voice cracks or squeaks in front of others. He should know that these cracks are only temporary, and that they will stop when his larynx is finished growing.
Your son may find that clearing his throat and waiting a few seconds will help him regain control over his voice. Mints, chewing gum, and lozenges aren't likely to help, but they may make your tween feel as though he has some control over his voice change.
Understanding Wet Dreams
Puberty is confusing for both girls and boys, and virtually no child escapes without questions about girls and menstruation and boys and wet dreams. Wet dreams, also known as nocturnal emissions, are a common experience for many boys who are in the midst of puberty. During a wet dream, a boy ejaculates while sleeping. Some boys may not realize that they’ve had a wet dream, while others may think that they wet the bed accidentally. A wet dream is often the first time a boy experiences ejaculation and encounters sperm for the first time.
Wet dreams are perfectly normal for boys going through puberty, but many may find the experience embarrassing. It’s important for parents to educate boys about wet dreams, and reinforce the fact that it’s a normal part of growing up. Boys should also understand that having wet dreams doesn’t mean that they’re bad or that they have done something that is wrong.
Teaching Tweens Hygiene Habits
Their bodies are changing, they're facing puberty, and their skin is breaking out. It's time to teach your growing kids hygiene habits to last a lifetime. Some tweens can be fussy and conscientious about hygiene and cleanliness. Other tweens may need a little encouragement in order to establish healthy habits and routines. Here's how to deal with kids, hygiene and establishing habits for healthy living.
- Establish a Routine
The first step to teaching kids hygiene habits is to establish a working routine. Your tween needs to bathe or shower everyday, and shampoo at least twice a week. Some tweens may enjoy showering at the end of the day, in order to relax before bed. Other tweens may need to shower in the morning, in order to wake up and face the day. Whatever your tween decides, help her establish a routine, so that showering becomes a habit and part of her daily schedule. Sometimes kids, hygiene and busy schedules don't always cooperate. Be sure to explain to your child that he may need to shower more than once in the course of the day, especially after exercising or taking part in an organized sport.
- Demonstrate Good Skin Care Techniques
Remember that your tween doesn't know as much as you do about skin care, so explain what your child needs to do to keep her skin clean and less likely to break out. Show her
how to properly wash her face, moisturize if necessary, and use over the counter acne treatments such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Be sure you also point out how important a healthy diet, rest, and exercise are to kids, hygiene and overall well being.
Explain Proper Shaving Techniques Your son may have to wait a few years before shaving becomes necessary, but tween girls may want to begin shaving their legs, or under their arms, before they hit the teen years. Nobody knows how to shave properly right from the beginning, it takes patience and practice. Consider purchasing a battery-operated shaver, which gets the job done and doesn't require a steady hand like disposal razors do. Your child can get a closer shave with disposable razors once she's more confident and has a better understanding of what she's doing. If your son is ready to shave, the same advice applies. Try a battery-operated shaver first, in order to avoid those nasty razor cuts.
- Go Easy on Perfumes
It's easy for tweens to go overboard on colognes or body sprays. Be sure you explain that a little bit goes a long way. Also, help your tween pick out a deodorant stick or anti-perspirant stick that he likes. Tweens are tempted to choose deodorant products with strong scents, but sometimes those products can irritate young skin. Help your child find a product that does the job, without causing skin problems.
Kids, Hygiene and Tweens - Make it Fun
Tweens enjoy picking out their own clothes and finding their own style. The same goes for cosmetics. Make showering fun by taking your tween shopping, allowing her to pick-out her own soaps and shampoos. Be sure to teach her that sometimes the most expensive items aren't necessarily the best. You could even splurge on new towels, washcloths, and bath accessories for your tween. Or, if your child has his own bathroom, you could redecorate or paint his bathroom in his own style.
Make it "My Time"
If your tween associates showering or bathing with relaxing, he's less likely to fuss when it comes time to clean up. Tell your child to use his time in the bathroom to calm down, think about the day, relax, and plan for the week ahead.
Give your Tween Space
Tween's need privacy and can be very self-conscious about their changing bodies. Make sure your tween has the privacy he needs (from you and from siblings) in order to feel comfortable showering and bathing.
Compliment your tween when he takes the time to look good. He should know that people notice his efforts, and that personal appearance does matter.
American Medical Association Boy's Guide to Becoming a Teen
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