You already know that you are in puberty, because an adult must have already told you so. “Great, I have a definition for my age in the dictionary. How does that help me?” Well, that is a really good question. It does not really help to have an actual definition, but it can help the people around you understand you better, and maybe then they will understand why they don’t understand you at all.
You know that one moment when you completely love your parents and then all of a sudden you can’t wait to move out? It’s as though they ask you to wash the dishes and you think: I don’t work here! You should know you are not alone. You are really normal and there are many other teenagers whose bodies and minds are changing a lot during these years. There are a lot of hormonal and physical changes that your body is going through during this time and you all of a sudden realize new things about the world, but it is not certain that you know what to do with this information. Yes, this confusion makes you angry and more than once shortens the fuse and rightfully so.
So in order for it to be a little less confusing and reduce that kicking sensation in your stomach – here are some important facts that can help you truly understand the term “puberty.” We suggest that you also let your parents read this, who knows, maybe they will also learn something…
What is puberty?
“Puberty” is the transition between childhood and adulthood. There is no uniform and acceptable definition for the length of this period, however, most researchers agree that it begins around the age of 12-13 and ends in the early twenties, even though today we begin to relate to puberty already at the age of 10, and there are those who believe that it lasts through the age of 25.
Puberty can be roughly divided into three periods. Early puberty, between the ages of 11-14, high school aged puberty, ages 15-17, and later puberty between the ages of 18-21. In addition to the physical development taking place during these years, there is also intellectual, psychological and social development, where each experience and how you cope with it has significant impact because it will shape your identity as an adult.
What is happening to my body?
During puberty our body is grows (in height and weight) and at the end of the process the person becomes an adult. Teenage boys usually become taller by the age of 16 and teenage girls become taller by the age of 14, but it’s different for each person. The body significantly changes during this period – girls develop breasts, boys grow facial hair, both sexes grow pubic hair and underarm hair, the body’s odor changes and all of a sudden there is a need to use deodorant, acne appears on the face and more. Therefore, it is not surprising that the preoccupation with the external appearance is quite significant during this time. Every day you need to learn about your body and your face, and it’s not because these changes are not always flattering.
At this stage, the brain continues to develop and grow, and even though the brain can now perceive complex things like philosophy and complex theories, it is still not developed like an adult, especially concerning the ability to understand danger, its significance and its results. Therefore, at this age there is real risk of using addicting substances (drugs and alcohol), having unwanted pregnancies and contracting sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. This is a biological process that occurs in the brain of an adult. It can even be seen in a MRI, and this is not criticism at all of the population of teenage adults J since this is not about intelligence, but rather the ability to process the significance of the act.
From a hormonal perspective, the body begins secreting hormones that up until this point existed in small quantities, like estrogen for girls and androgen for boys. The estrogen is responsible for maturing eggs and menstruation in girls, while androgen is responsible for creating sperm in boys. The body is maturing sexually and the reproductive organs become fertile during their period. Clearly, these changes have many consequences since now teenagers can have sex like adults, if they want to, but can they understand, contain and handle the consequences of their actions as adults? Not always. This gap between the ability to understand what our body is doing and the ability to understand emotion and for the brain to process these acts causes the confusion that many adolescents feel. Therefore, it is not always necessary to do what the body wants. You should have sex only when you can emotionally cope with this type of intimacy.
Due to the hormonal changes, you are becoming more curious about sex and sexuality, and your own desire to have sex can be high. During this time, you begin to discover your sexual orientation, in other words, to whom you are attracted. Teenagers who are attracted to the same sex may feel different and not normal. Therefore, this period can be very difficult for them. Others may be confused about their sexual orientation and will begin to experiment to figure it out. There are also teenagers who will feel really good about their sexual orientation even if it differs from others. If you identify with any of these feeling and want to meet with teenagers going through the same experience, you can contact IGY – the Israeli Gay Youth organization.
I understand more than you think….
Starting in puberty, around ages 14 – 15, your intellectual ability becomes sharper. If before you only saw the world as good or bad, black or white, then now you can probably identify with some middle ground, somewhere gray (maybe even orange?). You are interested in more complex thought processes like philosophy, and you profoundly enjoy the arts, literature and their significance. You are curious about your place in this world and connect to insidious and new ideas that are not always accepted by your family. New and wonderful ideas can be born as a result of your curiosity that were not thought of before you.
I feel therefore I am
This is the time that you start becoming independent and establishing your personal identity, an identity that is different from your family. The journey to autonomous independence is expressed in several ways: you show less love for your surroundings and you can be very angry. You spend a lot of time with your friends and less time with your family, you tend to argue a lot, you test the boundaries, you are more daring than ever, and you are willing to take chances. Yet, it is still hard for you in all aspects concerning leaving your family where you feel safest, therefore it is highly likely that you will want a lot of attention from your parents while you still want space from them. It is a little bit of a confusing time, right?
The Gang and I
Until this time, it is most likely that your life revolved around your family, however when you become an adolescent you have more social circles with more variety: you have friends of the same sex, the opposite sex, friends from different ethnic groups, and social ties with different adults, such as teachers or counselors from after school programs. Also, now is the age that you start falling in love and having romantic relationships.
Not all teenagers develop at the same rate and sometimes there are differences. Also, the pace of physical maturity is not always compatible with the emotional development. For example, a 15-year-old girl can develop physically and look like she is 23 years old, while emotionally and intellectually she is still as shy as a 12-year-old.
To all of these changes we also have to add peer pressure that you face to be like everyone else, to be part of the team. Pressure to look like everyone else (clothes, haircuts), act like everyone else (smoke, have sex) and speak like everyone else (slang) is very common, even though this does not always fit your personality.
If you thought that you have had enough conflicts at this age, then you have more… At this age there is a great yearning to be part of the group, yet on the other hand there is a constant need for a unique self-determination and the desire to uniquely express yourself (clothes, haircuts, smoking, sex and slang). Therefore, socially you could be always surrounded by friends but still feel particularly lonely.
My Family and I
The conflict between the desire and the ability to be independent and the dependence on your parents (at least economically) along with the desire to be an equal among your friends, can cause a lot of disagreements between teenagers and their parents. This is a situation that is also confusing for parents, who not so long ago were used to having their children wanting to be near them, and all of a sudden they could be walking alongside them and getting an attitude. They can also say things like “Mom, you are really scaring me.”
Not all parents read the book “Being a Parent to a Teenager”, just like not all teenagers read the book “What is happening to me as a teenager and how it is affecting my parents”. Therefore, during this period there can be a lot of “blow ups” at home. Arguments are normal within a family, however if a family member (teenager or parent) feels that it is not normal, meaning he/she feels that their feelings are being trampled and they are not being heard, he/she should consult with a professional and seek counseling – Open door.
Behaviors that can develop during adolescence include drug use and unprotected sex, both of which can affect your health in the long term. Therefore, influence from adults is very valuable during these years, both from home (parents) and from an educational framework (school). Even if teenagers push their parents away, parents must find a way to reach their children and talk about safe sex, alcohol and drugs, safe driving and anything else that can endanger their health. It is true that in many aspects teenagers can protect themselves, however parental guidance in areas of health and sex are very important. This entire paragraph is suitable for parents and does not speak to teenagers only (even the title is misleading).
When it comes to matters of health, sometimes it is hard to make a correlation between the act and the result, especially when it is related to sexual behavior. Therefore, it is possible to be more vulnerable in anything that relates to sexual exploration and dangerous sexual behaviors (for example, sending naked pictures on whatsapp, having sex to please someone else, etc.). It is important to be exposed to a great deal of information that is reliable and explains sex and sexuality in a manner that will allow you to understand what you are going through and what moral criteria will be the basis of your actions.