by Liz Mc Keon, Dublin City University


What does it mean for me?
Puberty can seem quite daunting to many young people because it brings about changes both physically (how your body looks) and emotionally (how you feel). In this article we will look at these changes that may occur and what you and others can do to help you through this change.

When will it happen?
The start of puberty varies between the ages of 8 years and 11years. Girls may start earlier than boys, and some boys and girls may start puberty earlier than their friends of the same age.

How will I know that puberty has started?
Puberty is responsible for many physical changes that occur to your body. Girls may notice that their breasts start to grow. This may be something that is very welcome, with thoughts of buying your first bra. For others it may be a time of anxiety, feeling unsure how to deal with this change and maybe feeling self-conscious. It is important to talk to someone like your parents or carers about this. Some people do not like to talk about personal things, but there are great books or DVDs that you might look at for information.

Boys will notice that their penis and testicles have started to grow. Again this may cause concern, but these changes are normal. Again, you can talk to a family member or perhaps your key worker at your service about this concern.

Both girls and boys may notice an increase in body hair— under your arms and between your legs. And a little later on, boys may start thinking about shaving the hair that starts appearing on your chin. Again this change is normal, but if you feel self-conscious about it, you should talk to others about it.

As puberty begins, there is an increase in the hormones that affect feelings and thoughts. Sometimes you might feel happy and, without knowing why, at other times you may feel sad. It might help to talk about this to someone, instead of keeping your feelings to yourself.

Another change that may occur because of your hormones is that your hair may become oily, you may develop acne (spots on your skin) and your body will become more sweaty than it used to. Having regular showers or baths, washing under your arms and using a deodorant will not only help to keep you clean and fresh, and it will help you to feel good about yourself in general. There are many creams and facial washes to choose from—you need to choose ones that best suit your skin type. Girls may start their periods during this time—perhaps early on, but for some people not until some years later. You might like to talk to your mother or older sister or someone that looks after you about this before it happens, so you can be prepared for it. There are things that you will want know that will help you to manage your periods when they start.

Boys will notice that the sound of their voice changes and lowers and this may be an anxious time for them. This is something that most boys will experience and it might help to talk to your parents or someone who looks after you about this.

While these changes that occur may seem a lot to you, remember that this is all part of growing up. Talk to your parents or those that look after you or, if you are uncomfortable doing that, ask to see books or DVDs that can help explain the body changes of puberty to you.