The child in puberty fluctuates between the urge to stand on its own two feet, to break away from its parents and the need not to completely lose the security of the family. The path from child to adult is sometimes quite difficult: the body changes, hormones go crazy and the parents apparently have no plan. The puberty of the own child is a new chapter for the parents as well as for the child itself.
At the beginning of a puzzle there are hundreds of individual stones, and not a single one seems to fit the other. When you look into a teenager’s room, you sometimes get this impression. Like herbs and turnips, everything is mixed up, and with some objects their original purpose is barely recognizable. The usual children’s room order is broken up. And suddenly posters with the “strangest” figures decorate the walls. Suddenly “armed” parents with vacuum cleaners are perceived as enemy invaders into their own empire or at least as annoying tormentors. And woe betide you to remind your child that he or she might clean up his or her room some day: The noise is pre-programmed.
Puberty is that time: “when children grow and adults become difficult”, as a youth magazine once so aptly put it. The phase of growing up puts young people and parents alike to the test. For young people, whether boys or girls, it is about finding their own self, coping with the physical growth spurt and coping with their feelings and thoughts.
Puberty (lat. manhood) or sexual maturity is a period of adolescence that can be described as the maturation period of the adolescent. During this time, the male and female sexual organs reach their full functional capacity; this also influences other sexual characteristics of boys (beard growth) and girls (breast). This development usually begins at the age of 10 and lasts several years. The external sign of sexual maturity is the appearance of the first menstruation in girls and the first ejaculation in boys.
In addition to the biological and physical changes in the young person, puberty also has a decisive mental and spiritual component, which must be managed. It is a time of uncertainty, a time of great leaps from childhood into adulthood. It moves back and forth, with a suddenness that the child does not understand. Inner and outer changes plunge him into restlessness that he not only has to learn to accept.
Physical development growth
In the context of puberty, a significant growth spurt over a period of 2 – 4 years brings about 15% of the final size. During this time the bone also increases in density: in girls up to about 17 years, in boys up to the early twenties.
Growth increase occurs in girls before the menarche i.e. between 9 1/2 and 14 1/2 years (point at maximum age 12). After the menarche girls still grow about 6 cm. According to the different physique, girls at the age of 16 have twice as much fat tissue as boys.
In boys, the maximum growth increase two years later is 14 years. In boys, muscle mass doubles between 10 and 17 years; bone mass doubles between 12 and 16 years.
Normal puberty lasts about 4.5 years (3 – 6 years).
Puberty in girls starts about 0.5 to 1.5 years earlier than in boys. First the uterus grows; about 2 years later the breast develops (8-13 years), then the pubic hair (8-14 years); the first menstrual period (= menarche) occurs at the age of 10 to 16 years (about 2 – 2.5 years after the beginning of breast development; average: 13 years). Ovulation is irregular in the beginning, but becomes regular after 6-24 months.
Puberty is more difficult to define in boys. The development of secondary sexual characteristics begins with an increase in testicular size (10 to 13 1/2 years; from 2 to 20 ml), followed by pubic hair (10 to 15 years) and penis growth (around 14 years; from 5 to 12 cm). Finally follows libido (= sexual desire), voice breaking and the formation of mature sperm cells.
Sexuality and Sexual Relationships
The first sexual fantasies and experiences associated with sexual maturation are experienced and lived out in different ways:
For both sexes, a homoerotic transitional phase is frequent and almost obligatory. Since it is still culturally rejected, it is often filled with feelings of guilt. Close friendships among same-sex men and women often replace relationships with the opposite sex, which are still frightening and even aspired to, but also feared.
Masturbation, i.e. autosexuality (sometimes erroneously called onanie – erroneously because Onan cultivates coitus interruptus in the Bible because he doesn’t want a child from his sister-in-law, whom he has to marry in a levirate marriage for religious reasons after his brother’s death) is the first exercise in stimulation and orgasm. This exercise is important, is common to almost all children, is harmless and a useful and natural way of living nature. The outdated theory that masturbation is harmful should be rejected.
Masturbation occurs more frequently in boys than in girls (only about 33%). Exhibition of masturbation and masturbation in a group is not uncommon. Mutual masturbation occurs and is not an indication of homosexual development. Erotic fantasies and voyeurism are common among all adolescents. The fantasies often concern the opposite sex, hiding is in itself normal behaviour, feelings of guilt due to fear of having done something wrong are often unnecessary.
Shame towards adults in general and parents in particular is highly developed during puberty and should be respected by the adult environment.
What else is normal? Parents are challenged!
Puberty is a time of upheaval, and this is also clearly visible. But don’t let yourself be disturbed: As if by a miracle, you find the matching stones with time in the puzzle, and the picture becomes more and more recognizable. And so it is in puberty. You can be sure that your child will also find its way with time.
“A teenager once expressed his feelings: “Let me go without letting me fall! Finding the right balance between holding the strings in your hand and letting go can be a tightrope walk for parents. Most parents experience times of fatigue, discouragement and despair. A lot of understanding, tolerance and trust towards your child is demanded of you. But remain a trustworthy contact person for your son/daughter and give them support, even if the climate of conversation is sometimes icy or your advice does not seem to be in demand. Because this phase of your child’s development also produces wonderful moments when your child shows through, maturing into an adult of which you can be proud.