Puberty and its impact at home and in school

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At a glance

Understanding puberty and how it can affect your child's life at home and in school.

What is puberty and when does it take place?

Puberty is the stage in life when a child's body develops into an adult's body. The changes take place gradually, usually between the ages of 10 and 16. During this time children change emotionally as well as physically.

The changes in girls include:

  • monthly periods from around the age of 12
  • breast development
  • growth of body hair
  • increase in height

The changes in boys include:

  • enlargement of the testes and penis
  • development of a deeper voice and enlargement of the Adam's apple
  • growth of body hair, including facial hair
  • increase in height

How do young people feel when they're going through puberty?

Puberty is a complicated and confusing time for most young people. They sometimes worry about whether the changes in their bodies are 'normal', especially if they develop differently - earlier, or at a different rate - from their friends.

During puberty and adolescence young people tend to focus more on friends and relationships outside the family. Relationships with parents and siblings can become strained.

As a parent you may feel during this time that you're no longer relevant to your child's life. This is almost certainly not the case. Sometimes your child may appear to be rejecting and ignoring you. Despite this, you remain their primary role model and a central focus of their life.

Your words will still have a tremendous impact on your child. Continue to stress the importance of learning and schoolwork. But also be sure to offer reassurance, particularly with respect to their physical and emotional development. Explain to your child that the changes that he or she is experiencing are nothing to worry about and will almost certainly fall within the wide range of what’s considered 'normal'.

Tips for dealing with teens:

  • try not to nag - puberty brings many different pressures
  • give them space and privacy
  • trust them, believe in them and celebrate their achievements
  • never stop telling them you love them - even if they pretend not to care, they do

In this clip Robert Winston takes about what young people feel when they're going though puberty.

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How does puberty affect education?

Puberty is a life-changing process. Friendships and romantic attachments become very important. School is the main arena for much of the 'action' in your child's life - and often the 'action' doesn’t involve schoolwork.

It's important for your child to be learning about human relationships as well as about academic subjects. But try to make sure there's a healthy balance - keep your child on track by reminding him or her that passing exams will lead to the next stage of life. Most young people look forward to moving on from school to college, but it's worth reminding them that they need to do as well as possible at school in order to make that move.

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