Puberty is a time in your life when your body makes changes that cause you to develop into an adult. These changes affect both how you look like growing taller and developing more muscle. They also affect how you feel — one minute you want to be treated like an adult, at other times you want to be treated like a kid.
Hormones in your body increase, and these make the changes of puberty happen. For girls, these hormones are estrogen and progesterone. For boys it's testosterone. Much of what happens to your body is controlled by your hormones and the "genetic map" that your body is following. Of course, no one can control these two things.
Puberty starts and ends at different times for everyone. Girls develop more and change between the ages of 9 and 13. For boys, puberty typically starts a little later, when they are between 10 and 15 years old. This explains why many girls are taller and more mature than boys for a few years until the boys catch up. Just remember, everyone develops at a different rate and African American kids tend to develop earlier.
During puberty, you may experience a "growth spurt," or period of fast growth. Most girls start their growth spurt between ages 9 and 11, reaching their full height between the ages of 15 and 18. Some girls grow as much as 4 inches per year. Boys typically begin their growth spurt later than girls, between ages 13 and 14. But it lasts longer—until about age 20 or 21. On an average, boys grow about 3 1/2 inches per year during puberty.
There is no way to know for sure how much you will grow. Your body is following a genetic map, which helps determine how you will look as an adult. Things like height, body type, and facial features are determined by your genes. Your special pattern of genes comes to you from members of your family. But, you might ask your parents about what puberty was like for them, and that can help you understand what you should expect.
During puberty, both boys and girls sweat glands are more active. Kids will also sweat more during puberty. A lot of kids notice that they have a new smell under their arms and elsewhere on their bodies when they hit puberty, and believe me, it's not a pretty one. That smell is body odor (you may have heard people call it B.O. for short), and everyone gets it. The hormones become more active, affect the glands in your skin, and the glands make chemicals that smell bad.
So what can you do to feel less stinky? Well, keeping clean can stop you from smelling. You might want to take a shower every day, either in the morning before school or at night before bed. Showering after you've been playing sports or exercising is a really good idea. Another way to cut down on body odor is to use deodorant. If you use a deodorant with antiperspirant, it will cut down on sweat as well.
About 85-90% of all kids — boys and girls — have acne during puberty, and you can count on a zit attack when you want to look your best. The hormonal changes that are happening inside your body cause the oil glands to become more active. It doesn't mean that you are dirty, it just means that what is happening on the inside has put your oil glands into high gear and can cause acne or pimples. You may notice pimples on your face, your upper back, or your upper chest. Pimples usually start around the beginning of puberty and can hang around for a few years as your body changes.
Just as suddenly as your body starts changing, your mind is also making changes. The same hormones that cause changes in your appearance can also affect your emotions, making you feel like no one understands what you're experiencing. You may feel like your emotions are all over the place. One minute you're happy and bouncing off the walls, the next minute you're losing your temper, or bawling your eyes out.
What's going on? Confusion and mixed-up feelings are normal. The different hormones in your body can send your emotions on a roller-coaster ride. Puberty makes almost everyone feel that way. Make no mistake—your body has taken control and you are along for the ride. These changes in emotions are normal and once you've gone through puberty, the emotional roller coaster should slow down. Just keep your cool. It'll gradually become easier as you get used to the new you.
In the meantime, you can control other things that affect how you look, how you feel, and how healthy you are. Taking charge of your health can help you to feel good, and in control during the changes of puberty. Try these links to let BAM help you eat right, get more active, and handling stress to help you keep your cool during this strange and exciting time.
- Page last reviewed: May 9, 2015
- Page last updated: May 9, 2015
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