Every young person goes through puberty to become a mature person or adult. When growing up, everyone worries about their appearance, performance and future goals. It is good to talk about your insecurities with someone you trust, since it relieves and helps you to think of solutions. During puberty all teenagers at times doubt themselves or think they are not good enough. This will fade away while building your confidence and getting to know yourself during growing up. If you accept yourself, others will also accept you too.
When you are different, other people or even your friends might tease you with it. For example if you are not as tall as your peers, less skinny or have a disability. It might not be the intent of people to hurt you with comments, but nobody likes to be made fun of for their appearance. Especially when it is something you are already insecure about. It helps you to be assertive in situations like that. Think about what it would feel like if it were to be the other way around. Don’t tease your friends, but ask them what is wrong when something is bothering them. Real friends make each other happy, not insecure. It is easy to focus on the points you are unhappy with, instead of features you are proud of. Accept yourself and keep in mind that you are a great person!
FALLING IN LOVE
Love sounds like a lot of fun, but let’s be honest: it can also be quite annoying, right? For example when you try to focus on your school work and can’t concentrate? Or the person you like does not like you back?
Because love is such a personal part of your life, you can’t compare your love interests or relationships with those of other people. Just because most of your friends have a relationship, this doesn’t mean you should search for a relationship too. If you are not in love yet, your time will come. It’s important what matters in life to you, not them.
Even when you do have a girlfriend or a boyfriend, love isn’t always easy. You can for example be stuck in an abusive relationship or be pressured into having sex even though you are not ready for it yet. How do you explain to your partner that you would rather wait to sleep with each other, when he or she doesn’t see the problem? Negotiation skills help you to stand up for yourself. You have to realize that love is not the same as sex. Anyone who tries to push you into sex is not being loving, despite the reasons they give.
PARENTS & GUARDIANS
Not only you, also your parents, guardians and family members have to get used to your new role in life when you are getting older. Your parents will understand that you are growing and will fully understand the changes you are passing through.
When you grow up, it can be difficult for you and your parents to understand each other. When this happens, or when a fight gets bad it might also help to involve an understanding friend or family member that can talk to your parents.
Unfortunately a lot of young people experience family challenges such as violence, have a single parent or being orphaned. It helps you to face them as challenges and become a stronger person despite of these changes in your life.
As a teenager, you will experience a lot of body changes. Every young person has to go through several stages in order to become an adult. For example girls will get her first period and boys will get a heavier voice.
Even though these stages might be the same for you and your peers, remember that everyone is different. Fortunately, how boring would it be if everyone would be the same? Keeping this in mind, might help you dealing with the emotional changes you are experiencing during puberty.
For boys and girls, some developments during puberty are the same. Your skin becomes more oily, because of the sebum production. This results in pimples. Don’t worry, this won’t last forever! You will experience that both girls and boys grow taller and the shape of your body changes. You start to grow hair in places where there wasn’t any before, such as the armpits and private parts. Next to that for both the girls and boys the sexual organs mature. Also all of you will find that you start feeling attracted to others. It differs for everybody when all of these changes start. It is normal to experience these either early or late in your puberty.
Most boys will experience body changes when they are between twelve and fifteen years old. Because your voice changes, you will find that this starts cracking during the process. No worries, this only lasts during puberty. Also your sexual organs start to develop. Your testicles will get larger and start to produce sperm cells. The penis gets longer, wider and thicker and a boy during puberty starts to get erections. Not only when you are excited or someone touches your body. Sometimes it also happens by itself or during your sleep. Because your body starts to produce the male hormone testosterone, it can release sperm. This results in so called wet dreams, which you can have without even noticing.
While growing up a girl experiences her first menstrual cycle, also called a period. On average, every 28 days your body prepares for a possible pregnancy by getting ready for a fertilized egg. When this egg isn’t fertilized, the uterus gets rid of the egg. This results in the monthly menstrual bleeding. The average age a girl starts menstruating is between 11 and 14 years, yet it is normal for the first menstruation to occur between ages 8 and 16.
HOW MENSTRUATION WORKS
Your menstrual cycle is different than the one of your friends. You can have irregular cycles up to three years after your first period. Afterwards, an average menstrual cycle lasts between 21 and 35 days. Generally the menstrual bleeding lasts between four and seven days. The menstrual cycle consists out of three phases. These are all led by hormonal changes in your body. The length of the phases depends on the total length of your cycle.
For an average cycle, the length of the phases would be as follows:
Menstrual period: day 1 – 5
The first day of your cycle is the day you start bleeding from the vagina. This happens because the thickened lining from your uterus starts to shed. This generally lasts between four to seven days. This phase is most likely accompanied with cramps, because your uterus contracts in order to helping the lining shed.
Follicular phase: day 6-13
This phase has the biggest role in deciding on how long your menstrual cycle is. An ovary prepares to release an egg into the oviduct. During this phase the uterus starts to grow new endometrium (thick lining) in order to prepare your body for pregnancy.
You are most fertile during the last five days of this phase and the ovulation day that follows. Therefore you are most likely to get pregnant when you are in these phases if you have unprotected sex.
Ovulation: day 14
What is ovulation? During the ovulation, an egg is released from the ovary into the oviduct. This means the egg travels from the ovary to the uterus.
Premenstrual phase: day 15 – 28
Your premenstrual phase starts on the day you are ovulating. This generally happens between the 7th and 22nd day of an average menstrual cycle. When the released egg has been fertilized by sperm during the ovulation, it will attach to the endometrium. This means the start of a pregnancy. In case the egg hasn’t been fertilized by sperm, it won’t implant in your endometrium which therefore starts to break down again.
SIGNS: WHAT TO DO
While having your period, it is common to experience related signs. Some of these signs can be uncomfortable. These are things you can do to battle them.
Because your womb is forcing your unfertilized egg to get out, you get some contractions. For the one these are more painful than for the other. Things you can do that might help are putting on a warm jar on your lower stomach to ease the pain. Getting a good night of sleep, eating healthy and exercise regularly help you reducing symptoms such as tiredness and headaches. Exercise could for example be running or dancing. If this doesn’t help, you can take an aspirin or paracetamol. Contraceptives such as the contraceptive pill or IUD can change the symptoms you have during your period.
When you feel down or annoyed during your period, this is mostly because of the hormonal changes in your body. To stop feeling blue, it will help to get about 30 minutes of exercise. This will get the happy chemicals (dopamine) in your brain active, which energizes you.
Try to minimize the amount of salt you eat a few days prior to your period.
You can temper your food cravings by eating yoghurt, milk or dark chocolate. Also drink a lot of fluids, which will give you a satisfied feeling. Herbal tea is good for relieving the pain of the cramps as well.
PADS & TAMPONS
Tampons and sanitary towels, also called pads or sanitary napkins, are the most commonly used products during the menstruation period to absorb the blood. Your wear the sanitary towels in your underwear. You put tampons inside your vagina. It all depends on your personal preferences which product you like best.
There are many different pads, depending on how heavy your flow is. There are sanitary towels for a light, regular and heavy flow and you can choose to have pads with or without wings. Change your pads every 3 to 4 hours, to prevent getting vaginal infections. This will also prevent stains on your underwear and clothing and smells. Dispose pads properly, for example by wrapping them in toilet paper and putting them in a trash can.
Tampons come in different sizes, depending on how heavy your flow is. Before you put a tampon in your vagina, make sure your hands are clean. Pull the string on the product to check whether it is attached firmly.
Putting in a tampon for the first time might be difficult, so make sure you start with the smallest size there is and put it in while your flow is heavy. It is important to relax, even though you might be a bit nervous. The more you practice, the easier it will get. Read the instructions that are included in the box, to help you know how to insert the tampon. Remove the tampon after 3 to 4 hours, to prevent getting vaginal infections and stains on your clothing. Avoid using tampons during the night, since leaving it in for too long can cause diseases and infections.
You shouldn’t feel the tampon while it is in. When you do feel it, get it out and try again. While removing gently pull the string and relax. Dispose tampons properly, for example by wrapping them in toilet paper and putting them in a trash can.
EMOTIONAL UPS & DOWNS
When you grow up you are forming your own personality and identity. Developing yourself isn’t always easy and can raise a lot of questions. Who are you? What do you want to do with your life? What are your dreams?
Mood swings are part of growing up. Sometimes you feel sad, frustrated or happy for no reason. Knowing how you feel is called self-awareness. Keep in mind that growing up also has a lot of good sides. You can make your own decisions, explore and create your own future.
Most teenagers have problems with being different from their peers. Being confident helps you to handle these problems. People with confidence feel good about themselves, but don’t consider themselves to be better than others. It is key to accept your mistakes and imperfections and move on. Being different shows that you are not afraid to stand out and have your own identity. Be proud of who you are, nobody is perfect!
MANAGING STRESS, ANGER & CONFLICT
Because of all of the changes you go through, you also tend to all of a sudden be sad, happy or frustrated for no reason. You might start fights or arguments without understanding why. You can’t hold all of this in, but there are some ways to cope with the stress you get when growing up.
It is helpful to talk to someone who understands you, like your friends. When your emotional changes turn extreme, it might be helpful to talk to a (school) practitioner. If you don’t feel like talking to someone, try writing some of your experiences and thoughts down. This helps you to clear your mind. Lose the negative energy by doing something you love.
Playing sports, having fun with friends, making music and going for fun activities can ease your mind and helps you ventilating your frustrations. You will experience feeling much better when you force yourself to disrupt your negative feelings.
SOLVING AN ARGUMENT
There are some ways to solve conflicts smoothly and solve the problems you have with another person.
Be respectful to the other during an argument. Avoid becoming angry or starting to shout. When you stay calm during the conflict, you will increase the chance of getting what you want and making your point clear. Show the other person that you are open to their perceptions and that you agree with some parts of it. Be assertive and set your arguments straight. Think about what you are going to say before you say things you don’t mean.
Let the other person talk. People like to be heard and therefore feel comforted when you show effort to solve the argument. Don’t feel bad if you are proven wrong and admit that the other person is right. Everybody makes mistakes. Just don’t make a big deal out of it and take responsibility. It makes a conflict way worse if you keep holding on to something that you know isn’t true.
Don’t let the fight last too long and set boundaries. When the other person gets offensive or disrespectful protect yourself by for example walking away.