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Every year since your child was 2 or 3 years old, she/he has gained about 5 pounds and grown about 2 inches, on average. During puberty, you can expect that rate to double.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says puberty is made up of a clear sequence of stages, affecting nearly all bodily systems. A girl's ovaries start producing estrogen (the female sex hormone), and a boy's testicles start producing testosterone (the male sex hormone).
The timing of a child's physical development can vary a lot, but puberty often beings earlier than parents think. Boys start puberty a little later than girls, typically between ages 9-13, where it’s between ages 7-11 for girls.
Physical changes during puberty tend to be gradual and steady. What changes can parents expect when their child hits puberty? How can you tell what’s normal and what’s not?
Girls: The AAP offers what to expect for girls:
Boys: The AAP offers what to expect for boys:
Some children start puberty very early or very late. The AAP says two boys or girls exactly the same age can start or end puberty years apart, yet still fall within what is considered "normal" growth. Let your doctor know if your child’s development does not follow the typical pattern to rule out any medical problems.
For instance, check with your doctor if your daughter begins pubertal changes before age 8 or if there are no changes by age 13. Likewise, let your doctor know if your son enters puberty before age 9, or if there are no pubertal changes by age 14.
Also, talk to your doctor if your daughter has not menstruated by age 16 or 17, or if she experiences abdominal pain or a sudden change in her periods.
How can you support your child during puberty?
It’s always a good idea to talk to your child in advance so she/he knows what to expect during puberty. Talk to your son about how voice cracking and spontaneous erections, while embarrassing, happen to all boys during puberty and are nothing to be ashamed of. Help your daughter prepare for her first period early on. Talk about how it’s a normal bodily process, and have her keep a few sanitary pads in her backpack so she’s prepared.
Your child may be more sensitive about how she/he looks and embarrassed about the physical changes taking place. Many boys worry about their penis size, and spend time inspecting their penis and comparing themselves to other boys. Your son may need reassurance from his doctor that all is okay. Girls are often self-conscious about their changing bodies, so it’s important to promote a healthy body image in your daughter. Learn how to teach your child to love her body.
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