Part 1 - Understanding Adolescence – A special phase in life!

Smitha Hemadri

Natural Healing - Leader & Influencer

03:03 PM | 06-04-2020

During adolescent stages, as youth make the transition from childhood to adulthood, they experience monumental changes in every single aspect of their lives. The purpose of this article is to provide parents and other caregivers the foundational information needed to recognize and help them in this challenging and overwhelming phase.

What are Puberty and Adolescence?

Puberty is a significant milestone in every child’s life as they transform from a child to an adult capable of procreation. Adolescence is the period of life between the start of puberty and the beginning of adulthood and this comes with physical, significant mental, emotional, and social changes.

Why is Puberty necessary?

Like all organisms, human beings need to reproduce to ensure that the species survive. Half of the genomes from both partners mate to create an offspring with unique and individual differences based on the universal law of natural selection. During the period of puberty, the body starts preparing itself to contribute towards the creation of a new life.

What does it mean when we "Reach Puberty"?

On average, the age when the children reach and experience puberty can range between 11 – 16 yrs. For the changes to fully mature, girls take between 1.5 - 6 years and for boys, it Is around 2-5 years.

Prior to the mid-twentieth century, children became adults transitioning very quickly from school children into the workforce, often beginning their own families at the same time. However, as the industrial revolution's new wave of digital, electronic, information technology surged, the transition from child-to-adult has become lengthier and complex making it longer for youth to adequately grow mentally, get trained, employed, and financially independent.

Physical changes:

In puberty, both girls and boys experience a swift increase in body size, a change in shape and body composition and rapid development of the reproductive organs and other characteristics.

  • Girls – Body fat increases, Breasts begin to grow and enlarge, Menstrual periods begin, Hips can widen, Weight and height gain happens and by 20 the girls reach full development.
  • Boys – Testicles and penis grows larger, Voice deepens, Facial hair appears, Weight and height gain happens, physical strength improves.
  • Boys and girls – Breasts can feel tender, skin and hair can feel oilier and toxins will find their way out in the form of pimples or acne, appetite increases, body hair grows, hormonal changes continue, the brain develops.

Emotional changes

Unlike the physical changes of puberty, emotional and social development is not an inevitable biological process during adolescence. Society expects those young people will learn to prevent their emotions from interfering with day to day performance and relate well to other people, but this does not occur from brain development alone—it must be practiced or cultivated.

  • A sense of self-identity develops.
  • Ability to use speech to express emotions improves and in some cases some teens might also cry.
  • Close friends and peers gain importance and can affect their thinking, styles, interests.
  • Opinions form that parents are not perfect which decreases affection and increases the rudeness. In some cases, they may complain about the parents stepping on their independence.
  • Stress can display childish behaviours.
  • Independent functioning increases.
  • Newer habits like blogging can happen.
  • As adolescence period ends, the ability to think and implement ideas, concern for others, the ability to compromise increases overall leading to emotional stability.

“Increases in estrogen and testosterone at puberty literally change the brain structure so that it processes social situations differently. Pubertal hormones prompt a proliferation of receptors for oxytocin, a hormone that functions as a neurotransmitter, in the limbic area of the brain, where emotional processing occurs. The effect of increased oxytocin is to increase feelings of self-consciousness, to the point where an adolescent may truly feel that his or her behaviour is the focus of everyone else’s attention. These feelings of having the world as an audience peak around age 15 and then decline.” Laurence Steinberg from A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Adolescent Risk-Taking.

Moral development

  • Testing of rules, limits, questioning moral rights and privileges increase.
  • At this age, they look for role models and ideals.
  • Interest in social, cultural traditional family practices increases.
  • They tend to emphasize on persona dignity and self-esteem.
  • Evidence of taking decisions based on conscience, moral reasoning increases only over the end of adolescent years.

A possible reason for these behaviours is that adults see a decision in question as stemming from moral values of right vs wrong, family traditions, social customs and core beliefs were as teens tend to view decisions simply as a matter of personal choice.

Sexual development

  • Girls tend to develop ahead of boys reflecting more modesty and shyness in most cases.
  • Interest in privacy develops in both sexes.
  • Exploration and curiosity about sexuality heighten moving towards forming a strong sexual identity. Access to information makes this identity deeper.
  • Short term romantic relationships, capacity for sensual love, attractions towards the opposite sex, infatuations are not uncommon. In many cases, deeper relationships develop by the end of adolescence periods.

These expressions may differ among youth and it depends on personal readiness, family upbringing, exposure to sexual abuse, peer pressure, religious and moral values, curiosity, sense of social acceptance, wrongly blaming hormones for all behaviours and sometimes opportunities.

Cognitive development

  • Planning capacity, ability to the foresight and work habits become more defined.
  • Goals and ambitions start to take shape and become more defined as they grow.
  • Ability to think abstractly such as about love trust, faith, belief, higher mathematics and spirituality and laterally improves as they grow.
  • Risk-taking abilities emerge and might improve through the adolescence. Eg. Risk can range from confronting someone about right and wrong, save lives by putting their life into harm’s way or it can be indulging in drugs, reckless driving, and other wrong experimenting spirits.
  • Development across advanced reasoning skills, thinking about options and possibilities.

Studies say that brain development happens even until age 25. As this cognitive ability increases, young people love to debate, challenge and question authority or established values.

Reasons for spiritual changes:

Young adolescents become interested in the larger meaning of life, their sense of belonging and where they can make a difference. Parents and teachers may suddenly feel that the children have started behaving like adults. They would like to be involved in family discussions where decisions are made, they would like to give an opinion on justice and fairness. They would like independence to make personal choices and decisions.

Early and late puberty:

During adolescence, everyone changes at their own pace. Maybe a child gets her breast development or periods later than her peers or a best friend's voice has changed, and someone is still sounding like a kid which can be embarrassing. Some kids grow a lot suddenly and hate to be backbenchers. Perhaps someone hates to be the kid who has to spend extra time early morning to shave while their friends get to sleep in. If your child is early or late to puberty, be understanding and offer lots of reassurance and support. They may feel embarrassed but let them know everybody develops at their own pace depending on genetics and lifestyle.

Conclusion:

In this article, we learned about the basics of puberty and changes happening during the adolescent phase. The next article in this series will build upon this foundation to provide parents and other caregivers concrete advice and practical solutions to common problems that arise during adolescence with natural living principles so that they are armed with this information to guide their child.

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