We all know that the time of transition between being a child and becoming an adult isn’t often an easy one. It can be worrying to parents, tweens, and teens alike see this time of life coming into view. How do we handle it? What unique challenges will it present?

The NIH says this about puberty:

The time in one’s life when sexual maturity takes place is known as puberty. The physical changes that mark puberty typically begin in girls between ages 8 and 13 and in boys between ages 9 and 14. … Precocious puberty is a condition that occurs when sexual maturity begins earlier than normal. Precocious (meaning prematurely developed) puberty begins before age 8 for girls and before age 9 for boys. … Delayed puberty is the term for a condition in which the body’s timing for sexual maturity is later than the normal range of ages.

Puberty starting at 8 or 9 is not healthy, and here’s why.

The NIH also says:

In Girls

The signs of puberty include:

  • Growth of pubic and other body hair
  • Growth spurt
  • Breast development
  • Onset of menstruation (after puberty is well advanced)
  • Acne

In Boys

The signs of puberty include:

  • Growth of pubic hair, other body hair, and facial hair
  • Enlargement of testicles and penis
  • Muscle growth
  • Growth spurt
  • Acne
  • Deepening of the voice

What Impact Will Puberty Have?

We all know that puberty changes large aspects of how the body works. Processes and organs either start to work or start to work in different ways. What are the not so obvious impacts on the body that these changes can and do have?

Structurally

This is the way we are all most familiar with. Several organs and processes in the human body that were either lying dormant, or weren’t used often, now start to activate. These processes–sex drive, sebum production, menstruation, and sweat production among them–try to come to the proper level of function. Teens going through this subsequently get to deal with things like how to handle over production of sweat or oil resulting in clogged pores–acne. They get to figure out how to deal with suddenly noticing people of the opposite gender in ways they hadn’t before. The vast majority of their body is changing, including the thing they depend on to help them figure things out–their brain.

Mentally

As people go from children to adult, their brain also changes. They go from processing thoughts and ideas in the simple way of children and grow to see the nuance in things. They begin to take ownership of their own thought processes and come to terms with the world in their own way. A teen’s brain is growing, too. As teens are growing and changing and trying to figure out their new body, their main tool for doing so–their brain–is suddenly not as dependable as it has always been as that, too, begins to change.

Hormonally

Hormones are your body’s messengers. They tell the body’s organs and processes what to do, how much to do it, when to do it, and more. If your hormones are out of homeostasis, your body doesn’t function properly. As your organs and systems are changing, your hormones are starting to be made in different quantities and strength levels. This can be part of the reason the oil glands are over producing, and acne breaks out. It can be the reason the reproductive organs are in overdrive, or the reason the teen’s circadian rhythm is out of tune–over or under production of hormones like melatonin.

Emotionally

When your brain and body are both no longer acting the ways they always have been in the past, you can very easily feel like things you should be able to be certain about are no longer givens, and you’re somewhere between panicked and angry. On top of the emotional roller coaster that would be expected from such a situation, your emotions and the way you address them are also changing as your brain and hormones change and grow.

How to Support Your Teen During Puberty

Mentally

Mental health is a big thing, these days. It makes sense–the human mind is a powerful thing and controls a lot more than you would think. Did you know that there  are studies to show that something as simple as a daily gratitude practice can change your health for the better? Work with your child on cultivating a gratitude habit of their own, whether with a gratitude journal, writing thank you notes to people, or simply talking about what they are grateful for at the end of each day..

Did you know that not all your mental health doesn’t take place in your brain? A lot of it actually happens in your gut. The microbiome in your gut contains neurotransmitters, which is where that “gut feeling” can come from. This is also why you can get a stomachache if you’re worried about something. Get your teen tested to make sure they don’t have a gut infection affecting these crucial chemical messengers.

Where might they have gotten an infection? Do you need to check your water or air for pollutants? How many toxic cleaning products are used in their environment? What hair products, nail polish, scrubs, or lotions that are toxic are they using on a normal basis?

A lot of teens these days want to stay inside most of the time, but getting outside gives so many health benefits. Make sure your teen gets out in the good, fresh air and dirt every once in a while.

There are enough statistics about teenage mental health; let’s fix it.

Emotionally

None of us like seeing those we care about hurt or upset. Puberty is a hard stage of life. A lot of things are in flux and not in homeostasis. Understand, if your teen is short or cross that they are going through a hard time right now. Hold them accountable for their actions, as always, but exercise grace and patience with them, as well. Understand this is a time in their life where they’re coming into their own mentally as well as physically. They are becoming adults with their own opinions. Be willing to hold them if they need to revert back to a child, again. The benefits of cuddling and hugging don’t stop as children grow into adults. Something as simple as human contact is good for people of all ages. If your teen comes to you and wants to snuggle, take that as a blessing and don’t refuse it.

Nutritionally

What goes into your body has a large impact on how well your body is able to work. Things like allergies and gut infections can have much more of an impact than you may think.

Just about any bodily ailment can be traced back to inflammation somewhere. Aches and pains, infections, unwanted weight gain, and more can all be traced back to inflammation from things like allergies and toxins. Cut out cheap, over processed food. Get your teen’s allergies tested and cut out the allergens. Stay away from things like dairy, sugar, food dyes, GMOs, and the dirty dozen. The last thing they need is to be fighting their own body in this already difficult time of life.

Structurally

When a body is changing and growing, it’s very easy for things to shift out of place or fall out of homeostasis. Making sure your teen’s body is growing well and is aligned is a very important aspect to keeping puberty’s consequences from wreaking havoc. Get your teen a chiropractic adjustment to make sure nothing is being forced into a position it’s not supposed to.

Relationally

Making your own choices and exploring the world to make it your own is a big part of puberty. A teen’s mind starting to consider things and weigh what they believe against what they’ve been taught and choosing their own worldview, as well. That doesn’t mean they always do it right. You’re not always great at something you try for the first time. They still need adults to speak truth and wisdom into their lives regardless of whether they think they do or not.

Keep the lines of communication open. A relationship has two sides. We all know the importance of a safe space to run back to when you’re unsure, hurting, or after you make a mistake. This is just as true in the journey from child to adult.

It can be hard to balance being an adult in authority and being a friend to a teen, but it’s an important balance to strike. If a teen feels like they don’t have a safe space with an adult, they’ll take the counsel of their friends whose own bodies and minds are going through the same changes. Keep communication and relationship open. Take them out for intentional quality time. Make it a point to take an interest in their passions and listen to what they say even if it doesn’t interest you.

Puberty can be hard time for everyone involved–the relationships don’t come as easy as they once did. You have to fight for them, and fighting is hard. But it’s necessary. While the time may be challenging, there are also so many high points and milestones to hit from graduation to dances, getting a driver’s license to learning new life skills. Be prepared to celebrate the good times and mitigate the challenges. To get your teen’s allergies and gut tested or to get adjusted, contact a Wellness Way clinic near you. Don’t worry, your teen will thank you one day.