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Puberty and Adolescence
People often use the words adolescence and puberty interchangeably, and although these stages overlap, it may help to understand a little more about their true meanings. Puberty is the biological process when a body begins changing from a child into an adult, which usually starts as early as eight years old in girls and nine with boys. On the other hand, adolescence refers more to the period of psychological and social transition between childhood and adulthood, which of course happens around the time of puberty.
Older children who have not reached their teen years are usually called tweens, since they are in between childhood and teenage stages of development. This is a period when many exciting, and sometimes confusing, physical and psychological changes occur.
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How to Begin
First of all, a parent must be armed with the right information about the developmental changes in puberty that may also affect a child in adolescence. Parents have undergone these changes during their younger years, and whether they had a smooth transition or a stormy period can affect how they deal with their own children.
If one is unsure of his or her own knowledge on these matters, it can be helpful to seek guidance from a health care provider, read books or gather information from reliable sources. In essence, the most important points to remember are:
- The physical changes during puberty are related to the body’s way of preparing the child for the period of sexual reproduction. These processes are influenced by hormonal changes that lead to physical growth, maturation of sexual organs and development of secondary sex characteristics.
- The psychological and social changes in adolescence are related to how tweens deal with other people, particularly their peers. Their self image, which may be affected by their body changes, may also be affected.
- Signs of a girl going through adolescence include enhanced consciousness of her body image, increasing interest in kids of her own age and mood swings. Although breast development is the first sign of puberty, for girls in their tween years, menstruation, which can come between the ages of eight to twelve, is the primary health concern.
- Girls generally develop earlier than boys, but the rate of development may differ even between siblings of the same sex. There is no exact way to tell when these changes will start or be completed, although the usual ages when puberty occurs is between 8-13 years in girls and between 9-14 years in boys.
- Along with physical and psychological changes, adolescents experience emotional and cognitive development where they think in concrete ways, but are still beginning to understand abstract and symbolic concepts. They may think they know what is good for them, but have yet to grasp the possible consequences of the choices and decisions they make.
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Guiding Girls Through Puberty And Adolescence
Armed with confidence, parents can properly guide daughters in their tween years through this exciting, though sometimes confusing period. Although kids may learn some things from their sex education classes in school (if given), they hear a lot from other kids in their peer group as well as from overheard conversations with other people. It is best that parents give children the proper information at the appropriate time concerning health and sexual development.
Before these changes actually begin parents must talk to their girls about why and how menstrual periods come about, what to expect and what to do during their monthly periods.
Although theoretical information is needed, practical advice may be preferred by kids. For example, girls might want to know what to do when her periods come at an unexpected time in school, or how she should deal with abdominal cramping.
Included among growing signs is the growth and development of her breasts and her changing body. She may become conscious of the way she is developing and may be pressured by how other girls are developing. She might become aware of her looks, how her hair grows, how her skin is starting to break out, her increasing body sweat, and so on.
Guiding a girl through puberty and adolescence may seem awkward to a father, and it is usually advisable that this role is done by the mother; but an older sister or another female relative can be a wonderful mentor in the absence of the girl's mother.
To talk about these changes, parents may consider one-on-one discussions with their kids in an informal way that will discourage awkwardness or embarrassment. It can be in the form of short but meaningful conversations on how the body works and evolves, how the body functions with regards to its role in reproduction and how emotions and thoughts may be affected by all these changes.
Through all these processes it is important to remember that a parent's love and attention are perhaps the key factors in helping the child deal with the process of transition to adulthood.Teaching tweens about these developmental milestones can help them lead a happy adult life.
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