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Puberty seems to be one of those dreaded words when we talk with parents. It causes anxiety and fear for many. The best way to deal with puberty is for both child and parent to be prepared when it happens. Knowing what’s coming and how to deal with it is key to making it through this difficult and often, challenging time for both children and parents.

So let’s start with the basics. Puberty usually starts between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and between the ages of 10 and 15 for boys. But keep in mind, there is no exact timing for puberty. It is quite possible that your child could start a little earlier or later.

Puberty begins when the pituitary gland in the bottom of the brain releases a “special” hormone that initiates changes in boys and girls. Some of those changes will be experienced by both boys and girls. For example, boys and girls will begin to grow hair under their arms and in their pubic areas. At some point, boys will begin to grow hair on their face as well. Also, because puberty stimulates the sweat glands in the skin, boys and girls will start to experience body odor. This is a great time to introduce deodorants with all natural ingredients.

OK, now let’s talk specifically about girls. For girls, the “special” hormone travels to the ovaries which initiates the production of estrogen and prepares the body for its first period. It is during this time that girls begin to develop breasts. You may first notice them as little “buds” sticking out through their shirt. This is a great time to introduce training bras to your child or to at least encourage the use of undershirts to shield these new additions. It is generally two years after breast development begins that a girl will experience her first period. Also for girls, their bodies will fill out and become more curvy. Please keep in mind that some weight gain during this time is normal. It is so important that girls and their parents know to expect this since puberty and its changes can be a catalyst for the development of eating disorders.

For boys, the “special” hormone travels through the blood to the testes which initiates the production of testosterone and sperm. It is during this time the voice will crack as it begins to deepen. This can happen quickly or take some time. Just be patient with the change. Also, during puberty, the penis begins to widen and lengthen. Other changes for boys include widening shoulders and becoming more muscular.

These are just a few of the changes that occur during puberty. It is extremely important to have an open dialogue with your child about puberty and that changes that it can bring. And yes, parents, although they are quickly becoming young men and women, we know that they will always be your babies.

**DeKalb Medical at Hillandale hosts informational sessions on puberty for girls called “Puberty Rocks.” To find out more information, please visit http://www.dekalbmedical.org/DeKalbMedicalHillandaleCampus/DocTalks.aspx or call 404-501-WELL.

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