What is adolescence?
Adolescence is that stage in a person's development when the child grows into an adult.
Different children will enter adolescence at different ages. Some can be well into their teen years before it begins. It tends to start earlier for girls.
Adolescence kicks in with puberty which is the name given to physical changes to the child's body which occur at the beginning of the process. Puberty is triggered by the production of the sex hormones, oestrogen and testosterone.
Boys' voices deepen, facial and body hair appears, sex organs grow, as does bone and muscle. Girls' breasts develop, their hips and pelvis change, body hair appears and they start to menstruate.
Becoming their own person
Adolescence is much more than those physical changes however. It is a time when adolescents work out their own beliefs, values, standards and ways of behaving. This usually means challenging and testing their parents' values and beliefs as they work out their own. By late adolescence, the teenager will have reduced or largely eliminated their psychological dependence on their parents. They will have become much more their own person, ready to enter full adult independence with their own opinions and values driving them.
Maturing sexually can be unsettling for them. And parents worry about it too. As a parent there are a number of things that you can do to help.
Make sure they are well informed about their own body and how it functions. Create a home situation where they feel they can talk with you about subjects such as erections, nocturnal emissions, menstruation, masturbation, lovemaking, conception, contraception, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Talk in an unembarrassed and honest way. If some aspect of sexual behaviour comes up in casual conversation use it as an opportunity to convey information and attitudes. Don't lecture and don't make it heavy and serious - use a little humour if you can.