The physical changes of puberty are usually mostly over by the time your teen turns 16, but that doesn’t mean they’re finished growing up. Here are some tips for talking with your teen about their body, going to the doctor, and their body image.
What should I keep in mind?
The body changes that come with puberty usually end in the teen years. Most teens complete puberty by age 16. That means their growth spurts stop, their periods become more regular, and the pitch of their voices stop changing.
Of course, that’s most teens, not all. If your teen is still growing after age 16 or hasn’t passed through other developmental milestones, they may feel ashamed or embarrassed about being different from their classmates and friends. They may worry that there’s something wrong with them. Your teen may also be getting distorted images of what teen bodies look like from TV and movies, because adult actors often play teen characters. You can help them deal with those feelings.
Emotions run high in the high school years, especially when it comes to their feelings about their bodies. They may look and think like adults one moment and like children the next. Keep in mind that even if your teen looks mature, their mind is still growing. In fact, their brain won’t stop developing until they’re well into their 20s.
Figure out what your values are when it comes to body image. Do you want them to believe that all bodies are beautiful? Do you want them to value strength and fitness? Is health the most important factor, above looks or anything else? Defining your own values can help you decide what to say to your teen.
Share your values with your teen. You can help your teen have a positive body image by not adding to the pressure they may feel about fitting in. Don’t compare them to their peers. Keep conversations with them about their body as private as you can. Whether they are a late or early bloomer, reassure them that it’s normal for kids to grow at different rates. If you had a similar experience growing up, sharing that with them can help them feel more at ease. You and your teen may talk with their doctor together for reassurance that their growth is normal. Share your ideas about body image, exercise, health, and beauty with them.
Remember that no matter what you say to them, your actions matter too. By the time your teen gets to high school, they’ll be pretty familiar with the way you talk about your body, and your relationship to food, exercise, and other parts of your health. As they get older, they may view their own bodies in similar ways. Think about how you can model the type of attitude and behavior you want your teen to adopt.
How do I talk to my teen about puberty?
The most important thing your teen needs to know is that different is normal. They may be self-conscious about how their body looks compared to other people around them, or celebrities they see on TV, in movies, or on social media. Remind them that there’s no such thing as “normal” when it comes to how bodies look. Use examples you see in the media to start conversations about body image. For example, if you see that a character in a show is unhappy with the way they look, ask your teen why the character might feel that way. Small questions can lead to rich conversations that will help you understand how your teen is feeling. Remind your teen that it’s normal for breasts, penises, nipples, labia (lips of the vulva), testicles, and clitorises to come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. They need to know that menstruation, sexual thoughts and feelings, wet dreams, orgasms during sleep, and masturbation are normal, too.
For more information on talking to your teen about puberty, self-esteem, and going to the doctor, please visit Planned Parenthood.