All content within this page has been reviewed and endorsed by
Dr Julia Thomson, Consultant Paediatrician
But what happens during puberty exactly? Puberty brings with it a lot of new experiences and changes. Most people think these changes are just physical, but in fact, a lot of emotional and intellectual changes happen, too. And they can be just as exciting!
An important part of what happens during adolescence is changes in how you feel and think.
We’ve composed this quick little guide to help you make sense of what happens during puberty so you know what to expect.
The physical aspects of puberty can be the most obvious changes you’ll notice. But there are also a lot of emotional changes that take place, too.
What is puberty anyway
Puberty starts in the brain when the pituitary gland sends out a message to the ovaries to start producing estrogen, the female hormone. This ultimately means that girls start menstruating, aka getting their periods.
As part of what happens during puberty for girls, a host of physical changes happen to girls’ bodies that are intended to prepare the body for being fertile, such as growing wider hips, growing breasts, developing vaginal discharge, and growing underarm and pubic hair.
That’s what puberty is for girls. However, the hormones created during this process produce a lot of changes in your body, as well as your emotions.
So, there’s actually a lot more to it than that. Here’s a little more about what happens during puberty from an emotional perspective.
Emotional changes during puberty
As you grow up, you’ll probably start wanting more freedom and independence. Maybe this means going to the mall alone with your friends, or even going out to parties.
Another thing that happens during puberty is the development of independent thought. The areas of your brain that control emotion are maturing.
Neurologically, you are capable of conceptual and analytical thinking. This means you will start to develop your own thoughts and ideas about yourself and the world around you. Go ahead and express them!
At this particular moment of your life when your body is producing a lot more of hormones, you might start to experience new feelings. Some of these feelings may cause you to be more curious about your sexuality and this is totally normal.
You may also begin to see others as more than just friends and start having crushes. This is also completely normal! It’s important that you go at your own pace and are never pressured into undertaking any activity that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Just like anything else, confidence takes practice. As you grow in independence during puberty, confidence is a skill that will come in very handy. Practice confidence by trying out new activities, by expressing yourself, and by developing your own unique thoughts and ideas. The more you flex your confidence, the stronger it will become. Develop it now and it will last you a lifetime.
Mood swings are one of the less thrilling elements that happen during puberty for a girl. The new hormones in your body can be challenging to handle. This can throw your mood into a roller coaster of emotions, which are mood swings.
In addition, being in an in between status – no longer a child, but not quite an adult yet, either – can create tension in what is expected of you, what you want to do, and what is permitted. This is normal. It may feel like one minute you’re floating on clouds and the next minute you feel like shouting or crying. Don’t worry. It’s not forever.
These emotions level out over time. In the meantime, consider keeping a journal to help sort out your thoughts and emotions.
Learning how to handle peer pressure is a big part of growing up for girls (and boys, too!) What your friends and peers think of you can feel extremely important during these years. Socially, the desire to fit in grows as the awareness of others and yourself as an individual sharpens. This can mean you feel pressure to behave a certain way or undertake certain activities.
It is important to maintain a sense of self and confidence. Don’t be afraid to be your full, unabashed, amazing self. It’s a wonderful thing to be! This means doing things and behaving in ways that feel good to you, and avoiding activities and behaviours undertaken just to please or impress others.
Now that you know all about what puberty is for girls, you’ll know what to expect as your body and emotions change – and to take it all on with poise and confidence!