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Puberty: how to deal with children who are at this stage of life

Throughout life the human body grows, changes, evolves and develops. From birth to old age, there are many transition phases, moments in which the individual undergoes physical and mental changes. Puberty is one of these phases, and perhaps the most complicated.

At puberty, it is not only the body that undergoes changes, but also the emotional and psychological, since this is the most latent moment of personality and character formation. One stops being a child to, very soon, become a teenager, and live with physical changes and social responsibilities never experienced before.

Coach Mara Pessanha, author of the program Mãe do Menino Adolescent, points out that it is during puberty that significant changes take place, both physical and psychological, which often lead adolescents to have a more temperamental and aggressive behavior. “Growth, acne, menstruation, body odor, mood swings, low self-esteem, rejection, increased school activities, more responsibility at home, rebuilding self-image and confirming identity. All this at the same time, and from one hour to the next, makes the teenager’s life a great challenge.”

It’s not an easy time, so the support of tutors at this time is extremely important, and preferably it is a lot of trust, sincerity and partnership. It may not be easy to accept that the children have grown up and that from now on they will have much more difficult questions to answer. The best training for this moment is friendship, which guides correctly, without exaggerated reproaches or half-truths.

Because it is a complex phase, many doubts live around the subject. You can better understand all aspects of this change by checking out the answers from subject matter experts:

13 puberty questions answered by experts

1. What is puberty and when does it occur?

Puberty is the time when the greatest changes occur in both girls and boys. The body goes through a physical maturation where it acquires the so-called secondary sexual characters, which are traits that the body acquires over time.

Individuals body and mind undergo changes and the moment can be varied for each person. “Both girls and boys go through this phase that marks the maturation of the adolescent’s body. For each teenager there will be a particular moment, but it usually occurs between 10 and 14 years of age. Behavior changes are also observed, such as the appearance of sexual desire due to hormonal changes, impulsivity, etc.”, explains clinical psychologist Erika Esteves.

2. What changes in a girl’s and a boy’s body at puberty?

The strongest features of puberty are physical changes. Overall, boys and girls grow in size. They can also have problems with oily skin – which leads to acne and pimples. Body hair appears to everyone, as does more sweat and a possibility of stronger odors. But never forget to take into account the biotype and time of each one.

In addition to these general characteristics for both sexes, there are also those that are unique to each:


  • Breast growth: In girls, one of the most representative changes is breast growth. From what is called breast bud to full development. After puberty is over, breasts will only change shape due to other factors.
  • Menstruation: It is also at puberty that the first menstruation occurs, called menarche. This means that the girl is already capable of becoming pregnant, which obviously does not mean that she should, after all, it is not just menstruation that defines when the body and mind are prepared for such an undertaking.
  • Hair: Hair begins to appear, on the legs, armpits, and pubic area.
  • Body shape: At this stage, there is a change in the distribution of fat throughout the body, which becomes more shaped like a guitar – the waist is more defined and the hips wider.


  • Body shape: A teenager’s physical structure changes with the increase in muscles and wider shoulders.
  • Hair: Pubic hair also starts to appear, but unlike in girls, it also appears on the testicles, face (the beard), chest and sometimes on the back.
  • Genitals: Penis and testicles grow and begin to show more. Penis size, like breast size in girls, is set during puberty and will likely not change after puberty is over.
  • Ejaculation: It is at puberty that the first ejaculation usually occurs – the release of sperm through the penis -, either unintentionally or by stimulation.
  • Voice change: Boys go through this period, which can sometimes be quite embarrassing, called voice change. It occurs due to the growth of the larynx, caused by the increase in testosterone, which stretches the vocal cords and leaves the voice a little “out of tune”. After this period the voice will thicken.
  • Breasts: In boys, a slight swelling of the breasts can also occur, which causes a lot of discomfort in some, but it is normal and usually disappears quickly.
  • Adam’s apple: It is a cartilage next to the larynx that begins to emerge at puberty. This characteristic is only natural for males.

3. Is it true that at puberty teenagers have more sweat or a stronger armpit smell?

“Yes, it’s true that teenagers have stronger odor sweat, and they can even smell bad. This is because the same substances that the body produces to promote maturation also change the characteristics of sweat”, explains gynecologist and member of the Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Minas Gerais, Karine Ferreira.

4. Why do some teenagers have more changes than others?

Who explains it is the gynecologist and obstetrician Dr. Domingos Mantelli (CRM-SP: 107.997): “This will depend a lot on the genetic factors of each one, on heredity, ethnicity, regionality. For example, Japanese women have less breast and pubic hair than Western women. Turkish women have more hair than Western women. It will depend on all these factors. It is a matter of individualization”.

5. When reaching puberty, will the teenager necessarily have pimples on his face? Is it possible to prevent this problem?

Once again hormones kick in. They are responsible for the appearance of pimples so common in teenagers. Dr. Karine Ferreira suggests that although they are common, they do not happen to everyone and depend a lot on each person’s sensitivity to these hormones. It also indicates how the problem can be prevented:

“Washing your face properly and avoiding oily creams can help reduce pimples and, in case of persistence or a large number of them, there are several possible treatments with the dermatologist. An important aspect is not to squeeze to avoid the formation of scars or spots”, he advises.

6. Is it true that at puberty teenagers have the most active libido? What can parents do to guide their sons and daughters at this stage?

Talking to children about sex is rarely comfortable for parents. But even with so much insecurity, it is very important to make a real effort. After all, it is at home and with the closest people that you get the answers most concerned with your well-being and exempt from possible bullying. Surely it will be better for your son or daughter to know the important thing through reliable sources and not through magazines or friends who can say a lot of nonsense, isn’t it?

Psychologist Erika Esteves confirms that sexual desire appears at puberty and that parents should be aware of these changes and seek to establish an open channel for dialogue: “First, parents should inform themselves and clear up their own doubts before talking to their children – this way they will guarantee that they will be passing on correct information and with more security. Try to be calm and safe and this will facilitate your conversation. Clarifications on how to practice safer sex, consequences such as illness and pregnancy should be addressed. The more information your children have, the less serious consequences they will have to assume. And the calmer the parents are, the more peaceful the conversation will be.”

7. Is masturbation bad for you? Is there a limit? How healthy is this for the teenager?

Self-knowledge is important at all stages of life. This learning can make all the difference in the young person’s relationship with others and with himself. And this learning includes masturbation which, unfortunately, is still loaded with many taboo and untruths. However, it should not be considered as something immoral or shameful, although very intimate.

Dr. Erika Esteves confirms that the practice of masturbation in adolescence is healthy “to the extent that it allows this individual to get to know his body better and learn how to give himself pleasure. This also has positive aspects on the teenager’s self-confidence.”

The psychologist Vânia Calazans, on the other hand, adds that the activity is not considered healthy when the teenager spends a lot of time in this solitary discovery, stops living with friends and participating in social activities: “When masturbation is used as an escape out of fear of facing affective relationships, fear of rejection or low self-esteem and the teenager is only left in a fantasy and lonely world, it is necessary to be careful. If this behavior persists, parents should get closer to their children to better understand if there is some kind of emotional distress and, if so, the help of a psychologist may be welcome.”

8. Is it normal for boys and girls to wake up wet during puberty because they have moments of excitement during sleep? Should this be something to worry about?

The Doctor. Domingos Mantelli clarifies that it is normal and not worrying: “but it is interesting that parents talk to their children, because it is common for the girl to feel excitement and the boy to have an erection. The gynecologist, in the case of girls, and the urologist, in the case of boys, can help parents understand what is happening so that they can better deal with the situation”.

9. From what age is the adolescent’s body ready and formed for sex? How can the teenager identify if she is ready to lose her virginity?

It’s not just the body that needs to be prepared for sexual activity, it also needs psychological and emotional maturation. “There is no exact moment when you are ‘ready to lose your virginity’. The event must be determined more by emotional and affective maturity than by physical changes. The best circumstance is the one in which the teenager is able to consciously choose the person with whom he will have sexual intercourse and who is well with himself”, explains gynecologist Karine Ferreira.

“Psychologist Vânia Calazans also explains that in biological terms it is the first menstruation that determines that the female body is mature for conception, and the boy’s first ejaculation also demonstrates his biological maturity. “The ideal would be for the teenager to be emotionally secure and…

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