“Puberty is not fun for girls. It’s painful, it’s messy, it’s confusing—pretty much everything about it seems bad!”—Oksana.
“I was happy one minute, then sad the next. I don’t know if that’s normal for guys, but it happened to me.”—Brian.
Puberty can feel like a roller-coaster ride—thrilling and scary at the same time! How can you deal with the ups and downs?
What is puberty?
Simply put, puberty is a stage of life that puts you on a physical and emotional fast-track to adulthood. During this stage, your body goes through rapid physical and hormonal changes that prepare you for reproduction and childbirth.
No, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to be a parent. But puberty is a sign that you are leaving your childhood behind—a fact that may bring you feelings of both anticipation and sadness.
Quiz: Which of the following ages would you say are normal for puberty to begin?
Answer: All those ages are considered to be within the normal range for the onset of puberty.
That means there’s no need to be overly concerned if you’re nearing your mid-teens and you haven’t yet started the process—or if you’re under ten and you have started. Puberty has its own biological timetable that is largely out of your control.
Perhaps the most obvious change that comes with puberty is a growth spurt. The problem is, not all your body parts grow at the same rate. So don’t be surprised if you’re a bit clumsy in your movements. Be assured that in time, things will balance out.
A number of other physical changes come with puberty.
Puberty in boys:
Growth of the sex organs
Underarm, pubic, and facial hair growth
Involuntary erections and nocturnal emissions
Puberty in girls:
Underarm and pubic hair growth
Menarche (the onset of menstruation)
Puberty in both genders:
Body odor, caused by a combination of sweat and bacteria.
Tip: You can control body odor by washing frequently and by using a deodorant or an antiperspirant.
Acne, caused by bacteria trapped in oil glands.
Tip: Although acne is not easy to control, washing your face often and using skin cleansers can help.
The hormonal surge that causes the physical changes of puberty can take a toll on your emotions. You might even experience powerful mood swings.
“One day you’re crying, and the next day you’re fine. One minute you’re angry, and the next minute you’re holed up in your room depressed.”—Oksana.
While going through puberty, many young people also feel extremely self-conscious, as if they were being watched and judged by everyone. And the fact that your appearance is changing so dramatically doesn’t help!
“When I started growing, I would purposely slouch and wear big shirts. Even though I knew why my body was changing, I was so uncomfortable and embarrassed. It felt unnatural.”—Janice.
Perhaps the biggest emotional change you will experience is acquiring a whole new outlook on the opposite sex.
“I stopped thinking that all boys were annoying. Now some were actually attractive, and the idea of falling in love wasn’t such a bad thing after all. In fact, ‘who likes whom’ became a popular topic of conversation.”—Alexis.
While going through puberty, some young people find themselves attracted to members of the same sex. If this happens to you, do not conclude that you are gay. In many cases, such feelings subside with time.
“Because of my obsessively comparing myself with other boys, I started feeling attracted to them. It wasn’t until later in my youth that I developed an attraction to females. Homosexual feelings are now just a part of my past.”—Alan.
What you can do
Try to adopt a positive view. Really, puberty is a physical and emotional makeover that you need. You can even draw confidence from the words of the psalmist David, who said: “In an awe-inspiring way I am wonderfully made.”—Psalm 139:14.
Challenge your ‘inner critic.’ Is everyone really watching you that closely? Even if people make remarks about your growth, put things in perspective. The Bible says: “Do not take to heart every word that people say.”—Ecclesiastes 7:21.
Learn how to control your sexual urges so that you do not act on them. The Bible says: “Flee from sexual immorality! . . . Whoever practices sexual immorality is sinning against his own body.”—1 Corinthians 6:18.
Talk to one of your parents or a trusted adult. True, it might be awkward at first. But the help you can get will make your effort worthwhile.—Proverbs 17:17.
The bottom line: Puberty presents its challenges. It also affords you a wonderful opportunity to grow—not just physically but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.—1 Samuel 2:26.