What Is Puberty?

Puberty Party - What is Puberty - Puberty Explained - Puberty For KidsCringe Alert: Welcome to Puberty 101! Puberty is when your kid body turns into an adult body. Get ready: the road to your adult body is paved with pubic hair, moodiness, stinky armpits and zits!

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Puberty begins inside your brain. Glands in your head release chemicals called hormones into your blood -- think of it as Puberty Juice. Ovary and testicle glands drink the Puberty Juice and make more hormones. The exact same brain hormones do different things in different bodies. 

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Feelings. We all have them. We need them, and they are important signals. Teens get a bad reputation as grumps, but give them a break -- their bodies are going through a LOT.

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Pubic hair may be new to you, but you'll have more and more hair as you become an adult. Even your grandma has pubes. So get used to it. Your pubes are only trying to help. Armpit hair for everyone, and facial hair for the testicle-and-penis crowd are also gonna happen.

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Here's another puberty topic: stinky armpits! Well, your armpits are actually not stinky. Bacteria eats your sweat and then fart on you. So it's not you that smells, it's the bacteria farts.

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Who doesn't love a pimple, huh? What's that? You don't love acne? Well, how do you think the acne feels? So unloved, so rejected, so under-appreciated. So sad! Zits do have a reason for existing: your new adults hormones cause your skin to produce oil, which clogs your pores and makes a zit. Other puberty fun times include getting taller! This is more fun than zits and puberty growth spurts hit different bodies at different times. Uterus-owners tend to sprout up first, from age 10-14, which testicle-havers gain height a bit later from age 12-15. Growth spurts can sometimes be painful! Just like growing up. But literally!

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First come the pubes, next come the boobs! (Actually for some bodies, boobs may arrive BEFORE pubes, or at the same time, but I'm getting distracted. Back to boobs.) Breast buds show up when estrogen -- made by ovaries and the juice behind biologically female secondary sex characteristics (breasts, hips, etc) as well as primary sex characteristics (ovums, menstruation) -- causes mammary glands and breasts to grow and develop. Interestingly, the magic of biochemistry sometimes turns testosterone, that juice of secondary and primary biologically male sex characteristics, so some biologically boy bodies sometimes develop breast buds.

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Oh yeah, now we're getting to the good stuff -- your period! Once a month, your uterus sends blood through your vagina into the outside world. Menstrual periods arrive around age 9 to 14. This is a big change but it’s a perfectly normal part of growing up. Woo hoo! Wait, what? You're not excited about blood coming out of your vagina? It's ok. Even adults are sometimes not thrilled to be on "Red Flag Warning." not gonna lie to you, it's a drag and a hassle. But it's also cool in that it's a signal that your body can now make a baby, which is basically a superpower.

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Here are some things to call your period, along with "Witching Hour" and "Discount Werewolf."

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Are we done cringing yet? Nope! Because we haven't talked about penises yet! In all seriousness, these body changes are normal and nothing to laugh and cringe about. But... PENIS. No word makes my kids laugh more. Or me. Because I am 12 inside. So as hormones flow and your body grows, so does your junk. Testicles drop and enlarge first, around age 11-12. Your adult-size penis -- ahem - arrives later.  Like with all things puberty, the change is gradual and happens slowly over time. Your penis may begin to have a mind of its own: surprise erections, when your penis fills with blood and becomes firm, and wet dreams, when semen, a thick milky white substance, comes out of your penis. Totally new, and totally normal! And just to get your mind off the semen, testosterone also makes your larynx longer, which is why your voice deepens during puberty.

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Delving more info feelings, you may want to touch other people's bodies -- and your own body -- in ways that are new to you! It's something to explore in your own way in your own timeframe. Anyhoo, just to recap, puberty sets in motions things that will happen in your adult body all the time. So get used to it. It's bye-bye child body and hello adult body! Okay, you can stop cringing now. How about now? Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Stonepediatric endocrinologist at Washington University School of Medicine, and Cara and Vanessa at The Puberty Podcast for their help developing this poster!

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