When your child hits puberty, you will be making regular trips to the shoe shops and the apparel stores. Your purse just can’t keep up with your teen’s sudden growth. How does a teen grow like the proverbial beanstalk?
Unsurprisingly, both boys and girls experience teenage growth spurts. And here, MomJunction lifts the lid off everything about this phenomenon, including when it occurs, and its signs and symptoms. Read on to learn more.
Before we start looking into teen growth spurts, remember your teen’s clumsiness has a reason. Your teen’s growth begins from the extremities and works its way in . First, your teen will experience growth in his hands and feet.
Then, his arms and legs will grow and get longer. Here too, the outside-in growth occurs. So, first the shin bones will get longer and then the thigh bones, and the forearms experience growth before the upper arm.
Next, the spine lengthens, which is followed by the broadening of shoulders and chest in boys, whereas girls experience a widening of their pelvis and hips.
Since your teen’s body grows vertically during growth spurts, his brain is unable to keep up with this growth. As your teen grows in height, his center of gravity also shifts. This increase in height happens so quickly that the brain is unable to ascertain the correct way to balance the body, causing your teenager to become clumsy.
What Causes Teenage Growth Spurts?
The moment your adolescent begins experiencing a rapid increase in height, it is an indication that is in the midst of puberty. In both girls and boys, growth is triggered by an increase in estrogen (for girls) and testosterone (for boys). These are the two most important female and male sex hormones. These hormones also are responsible for maturation and development of sexual organs.
Researchers believe the connection between growth and puberty in teenagers in extremely strong, as they can easily measure the developmental age of a teen by check the maturity of the bones in the hands and wrists.
Signs Of Growth Spurts In Teenagers:
It is not very difficult to figure out that your teen is experiencing a growth spurt. Some of the common signs of growth spurt in teens that parents have to contend with include:
1. Clothes Getting Small:
The first sign of growth spurt is your teen outgrowing his clothes. The jeans that you bought last month are now above the ankle is an indication your teen is experiencing a spurt in growth. Also, you may notice dresses and trousers appear to be tighter around the waist.
2. Shoes No Longer Fit:
If your teen complains that the shoes you purchased for him just a couple of months ago are suddenly tight, in all probability he has a growth spurt. During this period, you will be purchasing new shoes every few months. So be prepared!
3. Noticeably Bigger Joints And Bones:
As mentioned earlier, your teen starts experiencing an increase in the length of bones during growth. This causes the joints also to grow, making them more noticeable. If you see elbows, knees and shoulder joints of your teen jutting out from under his clothes, your teen has a growth spurt. In girls, you will witness widening of the hips, as well.
4. Strong Body Odor:
Most parents of teens complain of strong body odor that wasn’t present in their children earlier. If your teen has a strong odor, it is an indication of a growth spurt. The odor occurs due to active sweat and oil glands, and a bath is a good way to tackle the odor.
[ Read: Tips To Get Rid Of Teenage Body Odor ]
5. Increase In Appetite:
The surge in your teen’s height is usually accompanied by an increase in appetite. As your teen’s body grows, it requires a lot of energy and fuel to keep up with the developmental changes taking place. All of this causes a tremendous increase in your teen’s appetite. He will turn into a voracious eater and will want to eat every couple of hours without showing an ounce of weight gain.
6. Voice Changes:
This is more noticeable in boys than girls, but both genders experience it. Your teenage son’s voice will turn from soft and high pitched to heavy and gruff. On the other hand, girls to experience changes in their voices, but these changes are subtle, so most parents and others don’t notice them.
7. Skin-Related Problems:
Your teenager’s once smooth and soft skin will begin breaking out in pimples and acne when she enters puberty. This is because of over-production of hormones that activates the sebaceous glands in the skin. If you see this, take it as a sign of a growth spurt.
Remember, your child is in transition, and is between childhood and adulthood. The raging hormones will cause many emotional ups and downs during puberty and growth spurt. So you need to have a lot of patience and shower your teen with love and support even though you may feel he is pushing you away. It is a confusing time for your teen, and the growth spurt just compounds the confusion.
[ Read: Skin Problems In Teens ]
What Happens When Your Teen Has A Growth Spurt?
The years of a growth spurt are not just embarrassing for your teen, but they also can pose a physical risk. Your teen comes across as gawky and gangly, and it is this that opens him (or her) to injuries.
- A growth spurt causes the bones to lengthen quickly, but during this phase muscles and tendons do not grow and increase in length. Instead, they stretch to a point of tightness that makes them relatively ineffective.
- Since muscles do not grow in tandem with the bones, they are unable to support the fast growing hands and legs. This results in a lack of coordination, increasing the chances of your teen falling and hurting himself.
- Be prepared to deal with complaints of growing pains. These are non-specific pains that teens experience during growth spurts in their lower limbs. You ease or minimize the pain by getting your teenager to have a hot bath or warm milk. Even rubbing a balm or liniment can be beneficial .
The best way to avoid injuries is by encouraging your teen to become physically active. This helps strengthen the muscles and prevent injuries.
[ Read: Physical Changes During Puberty ]
Growth Rates Vary In Teens:
Many parents get worried when they compare their teens to their counterparts. This is especially true if they feel their child is not growing at the same speed as their friends. It is important to realize teenagers grow at individual rates. Your one teen may grow as fast that you would have to buy him new clothes and shoes every few months while the other teen may not experience the same kind of spurt because she will grow at a steady pace.
- Remember adults to come in all shapes and sizes. Similarly, teens too come in a range of shapes and size. Typically, boys tend to be lanky and slim, while teenage girls are rounder and get body fat that they will have to contend with throughout their lives.
- Girls may enter puberty at seven, but will experience a majority of their growth in height when they are around 10.5 years old. Boys may begin puberty at the age of eight, but experience growth when they are around 13 years old. Since girls enter puberty before boys, they also experience growth spurts early. This can result in girls towering over boys of the same age.
- On an average, boys grow the fastest between the ages of 14 and 15. During this time, they overtake girls. Girls usually complete their growth spurt by the time they are 18 or 19 years old, whereas boys continue growing until they are 20 to 22 years old .
No teenager, boy or girl, wants to grow and develop faster or slower than their friends. While parents can keep checking the average age for growth spurts, but in reality, a majority of teens grow earlier or later than the so-called median age. This is perfectly normal and you, the parent, have no reason to worry.
How Growth Spurts Affect Teenagers
As a parent of a teen, you will be affected emotionally and financially when your teen has a growth spurt. However, even your teen gets affected by these sudden increases in height. You should be prepared for this, as the way you deal with them will impact and influence your teenager and your relationship with him (or her).
1. Your Teen Will Sleep Longer Hours:
Research show teens require more sleep during growth spurts, as it lets their body perform the necessary work needed for this rapid growth. So don’t be surprised to see your teenage son or daughter sleeping long hours and not waking up early. Typically, teens require about nine and a half hours of sleep during this period.
2. Clumsiness Is Part Of Growth Spurt:
Since an adolescent’s arms and legs grow faster than other parts of the body, your teen will be uncoordinated and gangly during this sudden spurt of growth.
3. Teenage Girls Become Sensitive About Their Weight:
Since puberty brings other changes in girls besides an increase in height, adolescent girls become quite sensitive about weight. This is the phase when teenage girls are prone to eating disorders due to negative body image. Bulimia and anorexia are the two eating disorders that teenage girls develop. Bulimia is binge eating and then inducing purging, whereas anorexia is starving. Eating disorders can affect growth and development adversely, and also result in many health complications.
4. Teens May Worry About Not Developing Like Their Peers:
Just like you may worry about your teenager not growing at the same rate as the neighbor’s child, your teen may also worry about it. Some teens tend to develop quicker than their peers while others take longer. This can cause mental stress for your adolescent because teenage years are when he will want to fit in with his peer group.
Research shows if a boy grows and develops quicker than his peers, he often ends up being more popular among his friend circle and also assumes leadership positions. Furthermore, adults, including parents, automatically believe that such boys are cognitively matured, leading to false expectations.
A girl who grows and matures faster than her peers also undergoes undue stress because she may get pressurized into a relationship with older boys when she is not emotionally prepared for it. Research shows girls who grow and develop earlier than their peers often develop eating disorders and anxiety, and suffer from depression.
[ Read: Social Changes During Puberty ]
5. Teens Start Distancing Themselves From Parents Of The Opposite Sex:
Growth spurt and puberty lead to adolescents rethinking about how to interact with the opposite sex. As a result, the first ones to be pushed away will be the opposite sex parent. Girls will no longer be comfortable hugging and kissing their fathers, whereas boys who used to peck their mothers’ cheeks before going to bed will prefer waving out to kissing .
Your Reaction Matters:
As you can see, teenage growth spurts are not so kind with your adolescent, and he may go through emotional upheaval seeing his body grow a few inches overnight. The way you react to these effects of height increase and emotional ups and downs has an effect on their behaviors and attitudes.
As a parent, you are the primary role model even though media and peers influence your adolescent. Hence, the way you react to your teen’s worries about his body image matters.
Here are some suggestions and tips to help you out.
1. Be A Good Role Model:
Even if your teen hardly talks to you and pushes you away, he is noticing everything you do and say. Hence, it is important you turn into a good role model. No parent is perfect so don’t worry if you make mistakes, but create a sense of positive body image by not skipping meals or indulging in fad diets. Instead, try to teach your child the importance of healthy eating and why during growth spurts it is important he eats nutritious food.
2. Encourage Physical Activity:
Encourage your adolescent to be physically active. This will strengthen his muscles and tendons, and also lead to higher self-esteem. Through physical activities teenagers appreciate the limits they can push their bodies to, and also cultivate high self-esteem. This prevents teens from opting for crash diets or developing eating disorders.
3. Give Freedom To Your Child To Learn More About Health Issues:
When you tell your child to eat healthy to aid his growth and health, he will just dismiss your advice. This is normal teenage behavior. However, if you give your teenager the freedom to learn more about health issues that affect adolescents during growth spurts, he will be more open and receptive. Also, he will start taking responsibility for his eating habits. It is best to put your adolescent in touch with a doctor or dietitian.
4. Don’t Push Your Child To Eat:
When the growth spurt ends, your child will not feel as hungry as he used to during the height increase . So he will eat less than he used to. Don’t jump to the conclusion that your teen is eating less because he (or she) is trying to lose weight.
5. Don’t Compare Your Teen With His Peers:
Those long awkward hands and legs during growth spurts make adolescents self-conscious, and the last thing they need is their parent comparing them to their friends and criticizing them. Your need knows he is different from his friends and doesn’t need you to point it out. He can see the daily transformation in his body and is as worried about it as you are.
6. Let Your Teen Get Enough Sleep:
Your teenager needs a lot of sleep to help the body cope with this sudden and rapid height increase. Hence, encourage your child to get into bed early, and have patience waking him up the following morning. Also, take it in your stride if your teenager wants to sleep until noon during the weekends. This sleep will do him good.
7. Take Your Adolescents Grooming Habits In Your Stride:
During growth spurts, teenagers spend a lot of time grooming themselves and obsessing over their skin and looks. Don’t get impatient with this behavior. It is normal because your teen has lost control over his body, thanks to the rapid height increase. So he views grooming as a way to exert some semblance of control over his life and body.
Remember your teen is in an awkward phase in life. He is growing practically every single day, and this makes him self-conscious about his body. So let him have his personal space and don’t force him to hug and kiss family members and close family friends. He will resent it. Instead, keep the channel of communication open even if your teen withdraws from you. Let him know you are there for him, loving and supporting him as usual albeit from a distance.
When Should You Consult A Doctor About Your Teen’s Growth Spurt:
Come puberty, your teenager will see a rapid increase in height. However, if you are worried about your child’s growth and development, you should consult a doctor. It may turn into a battlefield trying to convince your adolescent to accompany you to the doctor, but don’t give up until you win!
Remember many things influence and impact your child’s growth, including genes, lifestyle habits, and diet. Smoking and alcohol consumption can adversely affect your teen’s growth. So it is useful you educate your child about the risks associated with underage drinking and smoking.
The doctor may use one of the following or a combination of two to check whether your adolescent is growing as per his age:
1. Growth Chart:
This is a standard reference that contains the height and weight of child as different stages of their lives. Doctors and healthcare professionals usually refer to a growth chart and then compare your child’s height and weight to it.
2. Body Mass Index (BMI):
Here, the doctor calculates your child body mass index and then uses BMI percentile chart for his age to find out whether his weight and height are appropriate for his age.
3. Body Composition Analysis:
The body composition analysis takes into consideration the amount of muscle or fat your child has. The doctor may opt for a skin fold test using calipers that pinch the skin to measure the amount of epidermal fat. However, underwater weighing is more accurate when it comes to body composition analysis. However, it is expensive, and hence, most parents don’t opt for it.
[ Read: Teen Body Image Issues ]
As a parent, you can help your adolescent through the teenage growth spurts. Make sure he eats a nutritious and balanced diet, enjoys regular physical activity to burn the excess energy and strengthen his muscles and tendons, and gets enough sleep to help his body cope with the surges in his height. A teen should get about nine to 12 hours of sleep every night to help his body work and recover from the faster-than-lightning growth.
There will be times when you lose patience with your growing teen, but remember it is a difficult period for your teenager. So control yourself and count till ten if you think you are reaching the end of your tethers. Just like every other phase in your teen’s life, this stage too will end, and when it does, your teenager will be an adult! Now, wasn’t that the silver lining you were seeking as a parent of a teen who is in the throes of growth?
Did you notice growth spurts in your teenager? How did you cope with them? Do share your experiences with us and help other parents learn from you. We look forward to reading your comments.
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