Changes that come with adolescence Changes that come with adolescence

Physical and behavioral transformations are 
inherent to this stage, a phase in which youngsters face a world to explore.

Advisor Claudia María Moreno Gómez
Clinical and Family Psychologist

He is the shortest of the class or the tallest, why does he dress that way, he expresses himself badly… comments of this type are frequent during adolescence, a stage marked by physical and behavioral changes bringing with it frequent criticism among peers. For many youngsters this can become a torment or maybe an opportunity to strengthen their trust and self-esteem. One must profit from the latter.

 “A key to confront this phase arises out of the family nucleus that has been established long before puberty appears,” points out Clinical and Family Psychologist Claudia María Moreno Gómez.

“The only way for a person to endure this criticism from others is that parents throughout the upbringing guarantee that self-esteem or the concept of oneself remain stable, enough so that the person can trust himself inspite of what others may say,” suggests Moreno Gómez.

The specialist considers that another issue to understand in this stage is that it is normal that comments with respect to the physical and behavioral changes take place. “There are some changes that are evident, there are boys whose skin damages, who gain weight easily and that are shorter that others and this may affect them.”

Facing the comments

A point of departure lies in family conversations, in which youngsters have the right to say when something displeases them and have their decision respected. This stimulates them and gives them courage to confront other people that they will meet in time and to whom they may express when they do not like the situation.

 Another way of enhancing self-esteem is highlighting the attributes they have to counter their ‘defects’. “He might be the shortest of the class but also the most likable and nice,” says the psychologist.

“That is why,” adds the specialist, “parents should never allow the communication channels with their children to break down. It often happens that youngsters decide to remain silent and not comment something that is uncomfortable for them because they are afraid of being scolded or criticized. So in that sense they must be granted the freedom to express what they feel.

You must avoid using expressions when talking to them such as, “Don’t be a fool. Be a tough guy. Don’t let them take advantage of you. How ugly you are combing your hair.” Such comments may seem silly and may even be said innocently but they have great significance for them,” explains Moreno Gomez. In this case it is fundamental to measure the consequences of everything one says, does and teaches at home. The key is to give these youngsters tools to live and allow them to relate in a healthy manner to the world around them.

From 10 to 14 years of age for girls, and from 12 to 16 for boys, physical and cognitive changes occur that come with adolescence

Are they affected by mockery?

Psychologist Claudia María Moreno Gómez give parents guidelines to identify when their children or relatives may be suffering with the comments others make of them.

  • They have a tendency to become isolated. “It is not insignificant that the youngster lock himself up in his room frequently, that he not want to participate in social activities. Maybe some friends made him feel ridiculous but he does not comment the situation with others,” she says.
  • They are people suffering from sudden changes in their attitudes.
  • Youngsters suddenly modify their vocabulary and way of dressing.
  • They take certain types of drugs.

What the body says

The physical transformation can begin at an early age, as of 8 years of age but they become more evident between 12 and 18 years.  The United States National Library of Medicine describes the main physical changes in the following way:

  • Breasts begin to bulge in girls, hair grows in the pubic area, the armpits, the legs and the menstrual cycle begins.
  • In boys the scrotum and testicles grow, hair appears in the pubic areas, the legs, the armpits, the chest and the face. Their voice changes.

In the psychological aspect, all kinds of transformations happen that lead them to want greater independence and that is why they usually separate more from their parents or elders. They feel attracted to other people of their same age and begin experiencing sexual sensations. It is normal that while they gain in security and confidence in their bodies they feel afraid but avoid expressing that to an adult otherwise sharing this with their closest friends.

Keep reading: Build self-esteem for better quality of life