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What changes can I expect in my daughter who just hit puberty?

A teenaged girl goes through several changes - here's a quick guide to understanding them.

It’s well-known that the onset of adolescence in the child begins with puberty. This phase can be challenging due to the various changes taking place inside and outside the child’s body. While there are a specific set of changes that occur during puberty, the timing and speed with which these changes occur can vary. Nutrition, genetics, and social factors can play a role in determining the onset of puberty. Therefore, it would help for a parent to be aware and notice these significant, natural and healthy changes which indicate that the child is moving from childhood to adolescence.

At the same time, it’s important to note that the onset of puberty happens at different times for every child and usually takes place anytime between the ages of 9 and 14. The changes that take place from the onset and during teenage years include:

  • A period of physical growth and development that is different for girls and boys 
  • Changes to sexual organs
  • Emotional and social changes
  • Cognitive changes

Puberty in girls and boys begins with the release of sex hormones in the reproductive organs, that is ovaries in girls and testes in boys. The hormones which lead to changes in the body of girls and boys are estrogen and testosterone respectively.   

Changes to expect in your adolescent girl

Physical changes:

  • Your daughter will have a growth spurt during the onset of puberty and she will grow taller. Girls usually grow till the age of 16-17.
  • Her body shape will also begin to change. There may be an increase in her weight as well. Her hips may get wider. There may be increase in fat around her buttocks, thighs and stomach.
  • Development of breasts is usually the first sign that puberty is starting. 
  • Pubic hair and underarm hair will start to grow.
  • Her periods (menstrual cycle) will start. She might get pain or cramps before or during her period. In some girls, periods might be irregular during the first few months.
  • Due to hormonal changes, she may experience an increase in oily skin and sweating. Pimples and acne are a common concern for adolescent girls.
     

Emotional and social changes:

During adolescence, you might notice social and emotional changes in your daughter which indicate that she is coping and adapting to physical changes and is forming an independent identity. 

Due to the various physical changes and hormonal changes that occur, you may notice the following emotional changes:

  • Showing strong feelings or intense emotions at different times:While this might seem like mood swings, it's important to remember that her brain is still learning how to process and express emotions in a grown-up manner.
  • Being emotionally sensitive: She is still developing the skill of reading and processing other people’s emotions and may be sensitive or sometimes may misinterpret the expressions or body language of others. 
  • Becoming self-conscious, especially about physical appearance and changes:She may also compare her body with those of her friends and peers.

You may notice the following social changes:

  • In the process of developing an identity, she might be exploring and questioning herself to know and understand herself. This search for identity can be influenced by gender, peer group, cultural background, media, school and family expectations.
  • In the process of understanding herself, she may try to exercise her independence and at the same time be dependent on you and your spouse in some aspects. This is likely to influence the decisions she makes and the relationship she has with family and friends. She may distance herself from you in order to create more space for herself.
  • Her Interactions with peers and friends might take precedence over family. Her behaviour, sense of self and self-esteem can be influenced or based on the acceptance from friends and peers.
  • The nature of her brain development is such that she may want to seek out new experiences. Therefore, some teenagers (and not all of them) while exploring may engage in more risk-taking behaviour. But they are still developing control over their impulses.
  • She may also explore her sexuality and sexual identity. It’s natural for her to develop feelings for the same or opposite sex. She might also start to have romantic relationships or be in love.
  • She may communicate in different ways. Mobile, internet and social media can significantly influence how she communicates with friends and learns about the world.

Cognitive changes:

This is the period when the brain of your child is undergoing a lot of changes. Teenage is when the higher brain functions such as abstract thinking, decision-making, goal-setting and a sense of judgement begin developing. You may see the following changes:

  • She will begin thinking more abstractly and question more about what is right and wrong. In the process; she may develop her individual set of values and morals.
  • As her decision-making skills are not yet developed, she may take time in learning and understanding about the consequences of actions.
  • She might work towards setting goals and begin thinking about long-term goals such as career to choose, hobby to pursue etc.

Knowing how your daughter is developing physically, emotionally and socially might help you in understanding and supporting her towards adapting to the changes.