For girls, you might start to see early physical changes from about 10-11 years – but this can be seen as young as 8, or as old as 13. Physical changes around puberty include breast development, changes in body shape and height, growth of pubic and body hair, and the start of periods (menstruation).
For boys, physical changes usually start around 11-12 years – but this can be seen as young as 9, or as old as 14. Physical changes include growth of the penis and testes (testicles), height increase, change in body shape, erections with ejaculation, growth of body and facial hair, and changes to voice.
You might notice that your child shows strong feelings and intense emotions at different times. His moods might seem unpredictable, and these emotional ups and downs can lead to increased conflict. This is partly because your child’s brain is still learning how to control and express emotions in a grown-up way.
Young people get better at reading and processing other people’s emotions as they get older. This means your child might be more sensitive to your emotions. But while she’s developing these skills, your child can sometimes misread facial expressions or body language.
Your child is likely to be more self-conscious, especially about his physical appearance and changes. Adolescent self-esteem is often affected by appearance, or by how teenagers think they look. As your child develops, he might compare his body with those of his friends and peers.
And your child could go through a ‘bulletproof’ stage of thinking and acting. Your child’s decision-making skills are still developing, and she’s still learning about the consequences of her actions.
Your child’s body is maturing physically, but his brain development
, thinking skills and emotional development
are happening at their own speeds. What you see on the surface doesn’t always match what’s happening on the inside.
Young people are busy working out who they are and where they fit into the world. So you might notice that your child is searching for identity. This search can be influenced by gender, peer group, cultural background and family expectations.
Seeking more independence is common. This is likely to influence the decisions your child makes and the relationships your child has with family and friends.
Your child might want more responsibility too, both at home and at school.
The nature of teenage brain development means that teenagers are likely to seek out new experiences and engage in more risk-taking behaviour. At the same time, your child is still developing control over her impulses.
On the upside, your child is likely to be thinking more about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. He’ll start developing a stronger individual set of values and morals. He’ll question more things. Your words and actions shape your child’s sense of right and wrong.
You’ll probably find your child is influenced more by friends, especially when it comes to behaviour, sense of self and self-esteem.
She might also be starting to develop and explore a sexual identity. This might include romantic relationships, or going out with someone special. These aren’t necessarily intimate relationships, though – for some young people, intimate or sexual relationships don’t happen until later on in life.
The internet, mobile phones and social media can significantly influence how your child communicates with his peers and how he learns about the world.