Youth Focus

Youth Focus
Late childhood to early adolescence is one the most rapid and dramatic periods of physical change in the human life cycle. During these years – sometimes difficult for both child and parents – the child becomes physically like an adult.

These changes are often referred to as "puberty." As the parent of teen or preteen, understand what is happening to your child may help you support your child through demanding time.

As early as age 8 in girls and 10 in boys, internal changes begin – organs grow and adult hormones appear. In contrast, some girls begin to mature physically as late as age 13, and boys age 15. Some may race through this process in a year and half, and for others it may last five to six years. So at a time when adolescents want to be like everyone else, differences in age and pace of puberty make least alike.

Because this process starts earlier in girls, they are often larger than boys. Eventually, the average boy grows to be bigger and heavier than the average girl. Most girls continue growing until age 17 or 18, and boys until age 20 or 21.

Change follows no set timetable. When your child was quite small, you were reminded not to compare him or her to the child next door. The same advice holds true for teenagers.

The age at which young people begin to mature varies greatly. But compared to two or three generations ago, puberty begins earlier, the growth "spurt" is earlier, and maximum growth is reached about two years sooner.

As people mature, their abilities and their sizes vary more markedly. For example, tall and short fourth graders may differ by only few inches, while tall and short men may differ by a foot or more. Variability among individuals may cause great concern for teens maturing much earlier or much later then their friends.

Puberty does not mean maturity. Despite dramatic physical change, your child may still be a child – socially, intellectually and emotionally. The informed, concerned parent can do a great deal – through empathy and reassurance – to help the young teen.

My source for this week's column came from

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