Communicating Concepts

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Understanding Puberty

      Puberty was usually an awkward and embarrassing time when most adults went through it. Is it possible to help your children to understand and handle these physical changes when society norms and expectations have changed so much since you experienced puberty?

Stages of Puberty
      Sure, most of us recognize the telltale signs of puberty — hair growth in new places, menstruation, body odor, lower voice in boys, breast growth in girls, etc. But we may not fully comprehend the science behind all of these changes. Here's a quick look at how it works.

      Puberty usually begins after a girl's 8th birthday or after a boy turns 9 or 10, when an area of the brain called the hypothalamus starts to release gonadotropin hormone (GnRH). When GnRH travels to the pituitary gland (a small gland under the brain that produces hormones that control other glands throughout the body), it releases two more puberty hormones — luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

      The physical, emotional, and mental changes that happen next depends on gender:

  • Boys: Hormones travel through the bloodstream to the testes (testicles) and give the signal to begin production of sperm and the hormone testosterone.
  • Girls: Hormones go to the ovaries (the two oval shaped organs that lie to the right and left of the uterus) and trigger the maturation and release of eggs and the production of the hormone estrogen, which matures a female's body and prepares her for pregnancy.
      At about the same time, the adrenal glands of both boys and girls begin to produce a group of hormones called adrenal androgens. These hormones stimulate the growth of pubic and underarm hair in both sexes.

Sports and Recreational Activities are Affected by Puberty   
      The changes experienced by adolescents affect a child's relationships with their parents, siblings, social groups, school peer groups, employees and the boss at a part time job, and even participation at church and other groups such as sports.

      Preadolescent girls may have happily played on a soccer or softball team in grade school, now in middle school sports are “no longer fun” and she seems obsessed with her looks instead. She isn't alone: Research from Women's Sports Foundation reports that beginning in middle school and through high school, girls experience a 23 percent decline in sports participation, compared to 10 percent for boys. In addition, a report released by the Girl Scout Research Institute reported that 40 percent of girls age 11 to 17 whom they surveyed said they don’t participate in sports because they don’t feel skilled or competent, and 23 percent don’t participate because they feel they don’t look good doing so. Source - E-How Living Well.

     Dan Saferstein, a psychologist from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and author of Win or Lose: A Guide to Sports Parenting, "says parents need to step back from being so emotionally vested in their child’s sports performance. “It’s important not to get too caught up in trying to get your child to be a better athlete. Some parents think they are going to be the variable in getting their kids to excel. Be supportive as you would be in anything."

Recommended Reading:

Developing Personality Traits and Character Traits

Relationships

Problems and Solutions

How frequently do sports injuries occur? Sports and recreational activities contribute to approximately 21 percent of all traumatic ... Bicycle- and sports-related injuries also affect older children and adolescents, ... Before puberty, girls and boys suffer the same risk of sports injuries.

Sports and Recreational Injuries - Kid Emergencies.com
Involvement in sports and recreational activities are important for children and teenagers. ... Prior to the onset of puberty, the risk of sports-related injury between boys and girls is the same, as they are approximately the same size and weight.  During puberty, boys are injured more frequently and severely than girls. Girls more commonly suffer from a torn knee ligament called the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, common in any sport with a lot of twisting, jumping or pivoting — basketball, soccer, football, volleyball, skiing. 

References:

Psychological Problems and Solutions

Pediatric Health and Injury Issues

Resources:

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Adolescent Challenges
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The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.


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