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Definition: Puberty is a normal phase of development that occurs when a child's body transitions into an adult body and readies for the possibility of reproduction.

Physical signs that a girl is entering puberty include growth spurts, breast development, underarm and pubic hair growth, facial acne, body odor, and menstruation. Physical signs that a boy is entering puberty include a deepening of the voice, muscle growth, pubic hair growth, acne, underarm growth, growth spurts, adult body odor, growth of testicles and penis, wet dreams or the ability to ejaculate. It may take 2 to 4 years before your tween's body fully transitions through puberty.

Girls traditionally enter puberty earlier than boys, and it's not uncommon for girls to begin showing signs as early as age 9. For most girls, menstruation may begin around the ages of 11 or 12. Girls who show signs of puberty before the age of 8 are known to have precocious puberty, which is a treatable condition that should be evaluated by her pediatrician.

For boys, the first signs of puberty are likely to occur around the ages of 11 or 12.

When children enter puberty earlier or later than their peers, they may be self-conscious, worried, or even depressed about their situation. These children may need help adjusting. In the case of children who are slow to enter puberty, provide encouragement and reassure them that their bodies will change when it's the right time.

Some tweens smoothly transition through puberty, others may experience moody behavior, bursts of anger prompted by the changes in their lives, and other emotional disturbances. It's important to provide your child with as much information as possible about his or her changing body, and for your child to understand why his or her body is changing.

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