As girls reach puberty and enter into adolescence, certain physical, emotional and behavioral changes are to be expected. The growth changes that occur during puberty constitute the fastest growth our bodies will experience during any time in our lives, aside from infanthood. While there are five phases in the growth cycle, different changes occur depending on gender. Females tend to hit their height growth spurt in phase two, while males tend to hit it during phase four. This is why girls are often taller than boys during middle school, yet boys eventually catch up toward the beginning of high school.
Many adolescents will begin acting a bit more defiant and begin ‘testing the limits.’ However, it is important for parents to be able to distinguish between normal and more concerning emotional changes. Gaining new friends who could be potential bad influences, declining grades or involvement at school, isolation, noticeable difference in their motivation level and getting into trouble with the law are all concerning behaviors that could be signs of a deeper, underlying mental issue, such as depression, anxiety or drug use. This is why parents should especially keep communication open and pay attention to the changes that are occurring with their kids throughout their adolescence.
Of all the changes that occur during adolescence, sexual health is often top of mind for most parents. Girls get their first period and reach sexual maturity during puberty. One of the most common questions parents have as their children reach adolescence is, “When is it time to have the talk?” The adolescent specialists at Cone Health Center for Children recommend parents to address the subject of sexual behavior and health many times throughout their daughters’ adolescence, rather than just having one talk. The more teens know about sexuality, the more likely they are to make healthy choices.
Dr. Jalan Burton is a pediatric resident at Cone Health and University of North Carolina Hospitals. Dr. Burton received her Doctor of Medicine from The George Washington University School of Medicine in 2012.