The increase in female and male hormones can be a difficult time for young people as they cope with changes brought about by puberty. Feeling self-conscious, mood swings and intense emotions are all par for the course during puberty.
It’s also a time for your child to forge their identity, and they’ll want to feel accepted by their peers and be 'cool'. They may face issues to do with their sexuality, gender identity and mental health. Some people also choose to drink alcohol or take drugs when they are feeling stressed. Read more about alcohol and mental health.
Dr Sharon Leitch is a general practitioner and Senior Lecturer in the Department of General Practice and Rural Health at the University of Otago. Her area of research is patient safety in primary care and safe medicine use.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team . Reviewed By: Dr Sharon Leitch, GP and Senior Lecturer, University of Otago
Last reviewed: 15 Oct 2019
Looking after yourself during puberty
Puberty is a normal part of life. Puberty is the process of becoming an adult and is caused by hormones produced in your body.
Allow yourself time to adjust to what you are experiencing and try to get support from others, especially from your family. If they understand what you are going through it will help them know how they can best support you.
For girls, during puberty your body starts preparing every month for a baby. Your ovaries start releasing eggs and your body starts to make the female hormones oestrogen and progestogen. These hormones are responsible for physical changes such as breast development, hair growth in your pubic area and armpit, height spurt, vaginal discharge and acne. After about 2 years, your periods start.
For boys, your body starts producing the hormonetestosterone. This leads to your testicles and penis growing, hair growth around your testicles and penis and facial hair developing. Your shoulders and chest will broaden and you may notice a slight temporary swelling in your breast area. Eventually, your voice becomes lower and you start growing taller. You may get wet dreams (ejaculations when asleep) and start to sweat more. The increase in testosterone also stimulates the production of sperm.
Due to the hormonal and physical changes that happen in your body during puberty, you may feel more emotional. You may notice changes in your thinking and care more about what others think. Looking after yourself can help you feel better. This includes keeping active and eating a healthy balanced diet. Read more about healthy living topics for teenagers.
An increase in sexual feelings is normal as part of puberty. You may be more curious about sex. It is important to understand what sex is and when sex is appropriate. Safer sex is also important to avoid diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Read more about sex, safer sex and contraception.
Puberty can also be a stressful time as you may also have to make life decisions while coping with the changes brought about by puberty. Some stress is good for you and helps you to perform at your best. But when you are under too much stress for too long, your performance decreases and your overall health and wellbeing is affected. Read more about stress. For some people, this may lead to anxiety and depression.
Some people choose to drink alcohol or take drugs when they are feeling stressed. Alcohol and drugs may feel as though they improve your mood, but the price for a temporary boost to your feelings is usually a longer period of low mood and an increased risk to your mental health over time. Read more about alcohol and mental health, and find out about how much a standard drink is, the effects of alcohol on your body and where to get help if your drinking is becoming a problem here.
The following links provide further information about puberty. Be aware that websites from other countries may have information that differs from NZ recommendations.
The Lowdown This website has been created to help young people understand and deal with depression. FREE text 5626 or chat online SPARX Helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed. What’s Up This is a safe place for children and young people to about anything at all. FREE call 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787) from any NZ phone or chat online
The following numbers are free to call from a New Zealand landline:
Free call or text 1737 any time, 24 hours a day Youthline counselling for young people 0800 37 66 33 (24 hours, 7 days), free text 234 or email/MSN firstname.lastname@example.org Kidsline 0800 543 754 (4pm–9pm weekdays) Depression line 0800 111 757 (24 hours, 7 days) Lifeline 24 hour telephone counselling 0800 543 354 or 09 522 2999 (within Auckland) Kai Xin Xing Dong Chinese Lifeline What’s Up 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787) Phone counselling is available Monday to Sunday, 11am-11pm. Online chat is available Monday to Sunday 11am-10.30pm. Free to call from both New Zealand landlines and mobile phones. Samaritans 0800 726 666 (24 hours, 7 days)