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Healthy Living

Nine to sixteen years

The Problems of Puberty

Female children may start developing the earliest signs of puberty like breast development, development of genital and armpit hair etc. from the tenth year onwards. It is nowadays quite common to see female children attain puberty early, around the age of ten. Indeed, with the exposure that children of today have to information on puberty and the changes that go with it, there is a greater awareness among them at an early age.

Though puberty is an important milestone in the life of the girl child, parents often fear the increased responsibility on them as their daughter becomes a woman. The crampy pain of menstruation that their daughters complain of every month also distresses mothers. This pain is part of the natural menstrual process and the understanding mother should explain all these facts of puberty to her daughter.

When the girl attains puberty, she feels shy about the changes in her bodily appearance. She feels angry about the restrictions imposed on her even though she is proud that she is no longer treated like a child.

It is important to provide girls, a nutritious diet at the time of puberty. Vitamin supplementation with B-complex, supplementation with Iron, Calcium etc. may also need to be given.

Male children attain puberty at a slightly older age than their female counterparts. Around the age of 12, a boy’s voice begins to change and he starts developing facial hair and even the wisp of a moustache. The male pattern of hairline also starts to get established at this age.

The parents notice a few behavioural changes in their son. The boy who earlier used to be afraid of being scolded or who used to sulk following a dressing down, is now angry and rebellious. Some boys may even bang their heads on the wall or throw objects around if things do not go their way. It is very important for parents to handle the child with understanding during this period. Even when the boy behaves unreasonably, the parents must not lose their cool but should accept it as a part of the growing process.

Boys are often more confused about puberty than girls, for a variety of reasons. For one, the changes in the physical appearance are far more gradual in boys than in girls. Further, there are no major events like menstruation to emphasise these changes. Secondly, while most mothers explain the processes of puberty to their daughters, rarely do fathers do the same to their sons. So the boy often ends up with half-baked or wrong information that he has obtained from his friends and this may instil unnecessary fears in him. It is therefore essential for the father to explain the facts of life to his son and if he feels shy or awkward to do so he can get the boy a good factual book which explains these matter well.

Not being treated as a child while at the same time not being accepted as an adult can lead to a lot of frustration in boys and some of them may seek release for their anger in a violent manner. It is imperative for parents to maintain an understanding attitude at this stage.


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