Puberty Pamphlet

First Tier

As no one needs to tell you lately, puberty is not an ordinary phase in your life. You may have already done some homework about it, to better understand what exactly is going on, and just how “normally” it's happening to you. If that's the case, it's a reasonable bet that you've read that puberty is the name attached to the multiple processes by which boys and girls become men and women, capable of reproducing. As you've already begun to know and feel, these processes include changes in voice, body shape, body hair, and the appearances and functions of the genitalia. What you may be only partially aware of is that chemical transformations are also occurring in the brain. As the release of hormones is restructuring and reorganizing your body, so too is your brain developing to better perform cognitive functioning.

If this sort of information has not been especially helpful, it typically is not, at least not to the adolescent actually undergoing puberty. The greater reality is that these physical and mental transformations bring with them emotional components, and usually of a confusing and unknown kind. The official definition, for example, lets you know what is essentially happening, but it cannot prepare you for the way these changes make you feel. Hormones are shaping your body to perform adult functions, both reproductive and otherwise, but along with this activity come desires and feelings utterly new and strange. Information is an excellent thing but, when it comes to puberty, there is no text that can address all the individual changes occurring within every individual adolescent.

Second Tier

If confusion is what you're primarily feeling, it may be helpful to know that, in as real a sense as it gets, you are not alone. Every adult has undergone these changes, as every adult has struggled to accept and understand them during the fairly turbulent process that puberty is. It is not the easiest of times, but it passes, and it is an essential period in human life. Without the turmoil of puberty, in fact, there is no human life.

Then, you may find it comforting to know that, historically speaking, you're in a much better place to go through puberty than have been very many of your peers. In past ages, this transition from childhood to adulthood has been handled by various cultures in a striking number of ways, and not all of them to the benefit of the adolescent. For long centuries, for example, a boy's emerging into manhood brought with it immediate – and dangerous – demands; if he was suddenly able to assert himself physically as a man, even in the most moderate of ways, he was ready to fight, and be conscripted into battle. Girls fared no better, and in many different nations and cultures. They were, just as suddenly, expected to fulfill the responsibilities of a grown woman. Marriage and child-bearing were the most common demands, as societies lost little time in promoting the building up of itself through a greater population. Today, thankfully, most cultures take a more...easy-going approach to puberty.

Third Tier

Ultimately, some emotional distress is virtually inevitable with puberty. Never think you are experiencing a trauma no other adolescent has faced, or dealing with seemingly impossible conflicts others before you have not confronted, and gotten past. What may be the worst thing you can do, in fact, is isolate yourself because of feelings of unease, confusion, fear, and perhaps shame. We all need to know we are not alone, during the critical passages of life, and puberty is no exception.

Reaching out to parents is a nice idea, but often unrealistic. The adolescent becoming a sexually-functioning adult does not, for a number of very understandable reasons, want to share this state of being with a mother or father. That said, however, modern relationships between mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons, actually and thankfully reduce that stereotype. It may be that this is an option you're comfortable with; if so, take advantage of it. If not, merely turning to a friend or a trusted teacher may do a great deal in easing your confusion. What is important is that, if troubled by the changes of puberty, you connect to someone. Nothing generates more fear than fear unaddressed, and simply expressing your concerns to a sympathetic party, in the case of puberty, can greatly help to keep the confusion and unease at a minimum.

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