Emotional and physical changes are common during puberty. Psychological or emotional changes during puberty manifest in different ways, but often through a change in behavior. Dealing with these emotional changes is not easy for teens, but it may not be easy for parents either. There could be several ways in which the teens may respond to situations and some of these come with a marked difference from their usual behavior.
In this article, MomJunction discusses the different emotional changes your teens experience during puberty and how you can help them deal with it.
Why Emotional Changes Occur During Puberty
Puberty is a process through which a child develops into a sexually mature adult. Adolescence is a period that can be best described as an emotional roller coaster ride.
Puberty begins with an increase in hormone production, which leads to changes that result in physical and psychological changes (1). The hormonal changes have a direct effect on the development, growth, and function of the brain, bones, skin, and sex organs. They also stimulate libido, which is one of the major emotional triggers during puberty.
[ Read : Emotional Problems In Adolescence ]
Emotional Changes During Puberty For Girls And Boys
Girls hit puberty around 10 or 11 years of age, while boys reach around 11 or 12 years. However, both boys and girls can have an early or delayed onset of puberty. This changes their behavior and interaction socially and at home.
While the biological or bodily changes are different for males and females, the emotional and cognitive changes are more or less the same. These changes also give rise to mood swings, which both teenage boys and girls experience. In addition to a myriad of feelings, children also have a lot of questions and doubts about who they are and what they are experiencing, thanks to the active hormones influencing of their body and emotions.
They are most vulnerable at this time and need all the help and guidance they can get from their parents and guardians. It will not be easy, but it is important for your teenager to listen and be present when they need you to help to make the transition simpler and less stressful for all.
11 Emotional Changes Your Teen Goes Through During Puberty
As a parent, you can make adolescence more fun and less stressful for your kid by understanding what your child goes through during that period and how you can help him or her. Here is a list of emotional changes that your child is likely to experience during puberty.
1. Changes That Occur Due To Physical Changes
The onset of puberty triggers the development of secondary sexual organs in the body. These changes can be outwardly such as the development of breasts and curves in girls, and facial hair, a bigger Adam’s apple, and change in voice in boys.
- Both boys and girls start gaining weight and begin developing broader shoulders and stronger muscles.
- Girls also start menstruation and growth of pubic hair, while boys have their penis and testicles growing bigger.
- Brain development is also one of the most significant biological changes that happen during puberty.
- The extent of these changes also depends on the secretion levels of their primary sexual organs. This would mean that some kids may be tall for their age, some may develop little facial hair, while others may have more than they want.
- Pimples or acne is also a cause for concern among teenagers experiencing puberty.
- Early sexual maturation may even result in children being teased or bullied at school.
Bodily changes can be confusing and scary for a child , more so if they have no idea what is happening. Lack of awareness can lead your children to think that there is something wrong with them and make them feel embarrassed. It gets worse when they shy away from talking about it and start worrying.
How To Cope:
Awareness about the physical changes that they are experiencing is important to help kids deal with it efficiently. It is important for parents to talk to their kids about these changes as they near the age of puberty. Giving them age-appropriate books can be a nice supplement to talking, as it gives them a chance to explore and learn about the changes on their own.
Encourage them to ask any questions they have and discuss the fears. Talking about sexual changes and feelings can be tough, and even awkward for your kids – it is your duty as a parent to make them feel comfortable talking about it.
Introduce the topic subtly and in a way that gets their attention. Don’t push them to talk about it, as that will only add to their stress. Talk through it at their pace, not yours.
[ Read: Physical Changes During Puberty ]
2. Mood Swings – Emotional Surges, Bouts Of Crying, Aggression:
Mood swings are common among teenagers. More often than not, the subtle changes in their feelings and emotions are due to the hormonal changes in their bodies. Your teen will seem relaxed and reasonable at one moment and may lose her temper the next.
Teenagers going through puberty are vulnerable. They may be irritable, easily excitable, and overly emotional. They may cry for hours on what might seem like a silly issue, and get excited about something that an adult may find annoying.
Anger is one of the emotions that teens feel strongly. So much so that sometimes it may feel like they hate you. Experiencing different emotions in a short span of time can be overwhelming and also confusing. That leads to frustration and anger, which comes off as aggression and in rare cases, violence.
It can be helpful to think of your teen as having a lot in common with a toddler in terms of massive developmental changes that accompany an emerging sense of self and self identity. But the teen may be bigger than you. Physically holding to help them contain their big emotions is no longer possible. But they need containment offered by your calm emotional presence and clear limit setting.
How To Cope:
Emotional maturity is necessary for leading a healthy life. We are not born with emotional intelligence, we develop it. As a parent, it is your responsibility to help your child deal with the ebb and flow of emotions that they experience.
Always remember that these emotional changes are due in large part to changes in the hormone levels. So the extreme moods that your child displays are usually a result of that. If you help your child to navigate this often tumultuous period, it will pass as they move into the stage of young adulthood. The best way to deal with these mood swings is to calmly listen and not have an equal and opposite reaction. If your child snaps at you, don’t snap back. Take a minute to think about what they may be going through to behave that way. That also gives your child time to calm down.
Talk about what they did or said, without using an accusing tone, and clear the air. Let them know that they can always talk to you if they feel overwhelmed or confused.
[ Read: Tips To Deal With Teenage Mood Swings ]
3. Identity Crisis – Conscious About Self
During adolescence, one is neither a child nor an adult. Children start experiencing new feelings and emotions during puberty. They become conscious of the changes in their body. This is especially true of girls who typically develop faster than boys.
Teens may tend to link their own sense of self-worth with their body image and compare their bodies to others. They try to know what they like and don’t. It is the time for experimenting and experiencing different things to know themselves better and understand what makes them unique.
The attempt to figure out who they are is also a result of the pressure to fit in. They may wonder if they should hang out with who they are most comfortable with or those who are most popular. They wonder if they should be a part of the soccer team or the math club.
How To Cope:
At this stage, teens may look up to their parents but they also develop role models outside the family such as a friend or r a celebrity and try to be like them in some way. In simple words, your teenager needs a role model they can look up to for personal growth. If you have a good relationship with your child, he or she may want to be like you or your spouse. If your child is independent or even rebellious, they may look outside for role models, and that is typical.
It is important that you be observant and aware of their choices and significant relationships outside the home offer guidance when necessary.
4. Change In Relationships
Relationship dynamics change soon after puberty. Your kid may start spending more time with peers than with you. They may even feel embarrassed to be seen with a parent in public. It may seem that friends are more important than family to your child. This behavior is typical and part of the healthy process of separation.
For an adolescent, both friends and family are important. They want the acceptance of their peers, along with the guidance and support of parents. So putting them in a situation where they need to choose one from the other is not going to help. It will add to their stress and may even make the parent a villain who wants to control them. Eventually, they may start questioning and rejecting what their parents say and do.
How To Cope
Adolescents may not always do what adults want them to do. They may seem rebellious and disrespectful at times. Adolescents are independent and want to make their decisions, whether or not they have the maturity for it. Instead of completely rejecting their independence, try to create a collaborative relationship which you can control. Teach them about responsibility and what is expected of them not that they are not children anymore. Let them also spend time with their friends, but oversee their activities to prevent them from straying into bad company. Again the concept of offering choices that you employed in the toddler years has relevance here.
[ Read: Social Changes During Puberty ]
5. Feeling Extremely Sensitive
Hormonal changes during puberty make children extremely sensitive to certain things. A small zit or acne on their face may seem like a major disaster, and being rejected by a boy or girl may feel like the end of the world. What is worse is that you don’t know what sets your teenager off anymore. This is also the phase where the adolescent can be easily influenced.
How To Cope
It is hard to maintain your composure when dealing with an overly emotional teenager. Emotionally sensitive teenagers are easily overwhelmed by their feelings and are not in a position to comprehend logical reasoning, which makes it harder to counsel them (2).
When your child is feeling vulnerable, don’t preach. Instead, listen to their feelings and let them vent it out. Empathize by telling them that you understand what they are going through and that you are there to help should they need it.
6. Your Child May Feel Confused
Your child experiences a lot of new sensations and feelings during puberty. They may feel uncomfortable and even unsettled about the changes that take place in their body and the new feelings they experience because of it. If not addressed, your child may think that something is not right with them.
How To Cope
Kids who believe that something is wrong with them feel compelled to fix themselves, which can lead to emotional difficulties including distorted body image. Your child may not feel as awkward when he or she realizes that the feelings are normal and are nothing to be ashamed of. To make it a little easier for them, you can even share how you felt when you were going through that phase.
7. Uncertainty And Indecisiveness
Adolescents are neither adults nor kids. Because of this, teens are often confused about where they belong and what stance they should take. On one hand, they feel emotions like fear, insecurity, and helplessness as a child and on the other, they feel that they shouldn’t because they are grown ups. The uncertainty often leads to indecisiveness.
Children are also expected to act or behave in a certain way as they grow up. They are expected to be responsible too. The change in expectations can be very confusing as well.
How To Cope
Change is a good thing, but not when it is thrust onto someone. Understand that puberty is a gradual process and during that phase, you are dealing with someone who is part child and part adult. Don’t expect your child to change automatically after the onset of puberty. Help them adapt to the changes and expectations that come with it gradually. Give them little tasks of responsibility, but don’t expect them to get it right the first time. Give them time to adapt to that role slowly and gradually.
8. Sexual Feelings And Gender-Specific Mannerisms
The surge of sex hormones during puberty causes children to have sexual feelings. Sexual maturity gives rise to new feelings and ideas that your child has not had before.
Also, they may start developing gender-specific mannerisms. For example, your little girl may start showing interest in dressing, makeup, and other feminine things, while your boy may want to indulge in activities like skating, sports, or bike riding that give him a rush. These, however, vary largely with personality traits. Your child may also be exploring sexual orientation and gender identity.
Your children may begin thinking about romantic relationships – how they see their peers from the opposite sex also changes. They may get aroused when they watch a romantic scene on TV, and get attracted to the opposite sex. Your child may at this stage of development discover that they are sexually attracted to their same-sex.
How To Cope
Puberty is when the child starts to become sexually mature, but that does not mean your kids are thinking about having sex. They merely have sexual feelings, which can be confusing.
If your child is talking about dates or asking you questions about it, it is time to educate them about sex and sexuality. The most important part is not to make them feel awkward or guilty about how they feel.
9. Peer Pressure – The Need To Fit In
Adolescents are vulnerable and easily influenced by others and constantly have the need to fit in. Teenagers feel compelled to do whatever it takes to be accepted by their peers, which encourages them to change the way they dress, speak, and behave socially. They may end up going the wrong path just to fit in, sometimes.
Your child will spend more time with friends than with you, which influences his or her behavior. They may feel compelled to try new things like smoking and drinking, or even do drugs just to be ‘cool.’
How To Cope
You cannot eliminate peer pressure. But you can certainly tell your kid that they do not have to do what they don’t want to just to be ‘cool’ or accepted. Encourage them to develop their own, unique personality and to stand for what they believe. Help them understand what they gain or lose by choosing the wrong path under peer pressure and let them decide. Guide them, but do not decide for them.
[ Read: Teen Peer Pressure ]
10. Contradictory Thoughts
The confusion and the indecisiveness that your teenager experiences during the transition period also translates into a conflict of interest at times. For example, the kid in them might want to go to a movie with the parents, while the adult wants to exercise independence and go to the movies with friends instead.
How To Cope
Conflicting thoughts can be troublesome, for they put the teenager in a difficult situation. Sometimes, they may feel compelled to choose one and feel the pressure of not hurting anyone in the process. Tell your kid that there is no wrong choice when they have to choose between an outing with parents and an outing with friends. They can decide to do what makes them most happy. More often than not, giving them the freedom of choice also develops their sense of fairness and judgment, enabling them to pick the right option.
11. Your Child May Want To be Alone
Teenagers are in a transitional state during puberty and are trying to figure things out for themselves. As much as you would want them to talk to you and work with you, they want their space and may often ask you to leave them alone. This behavior is expected but if your child is spending excessive amounts of time alone that may indicate that they are struggling beyond what is typical for this developmental stage.
How To Cope:
It is normal for adolescents to want to spend time alone. But if you think they are spending too much time inside the room and not with friends or family, it is a cause for concern. Talk to your teen about it and understand what motivates them to stay alone. Also, find out what they do when they are alone – be subtle about it. If you think it is a problem area, you may want to talk to a professional.
Emotional changes in teenagers are not unnatural. But if you find that they are drastic and they are engaging in harmful behavior, struggling with school, or struggling in relationships both inside and outside the home then you may want to bring in professional help.
Tell us how you and your teen deal with the emotional changes during puberty!
- What Is Puberty And When Do You Hit Puberty?
- How To Hit Puberty Faster?
- Puberty In Boys
- Puberty In Girls