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Boys, Breasts and Puberty….Who Knew?

Sad and thoughtful hispanic teenage boyA friend of mine with a son just entering puberty recently discovered a little known fact: a large number (possibly a majority) of boys in early puberty develop breast tissue. Her son had a tender swollen lump under one of his nipples and when she took him to their pediatrician, she learned that anywhere from 40% to three-quarters of boys will develop this “breast bud”. Who knew?

For boys entering puberty, gynecomastia – development of breast tissue in males – tends to be confined to a breast bud of less than 2 inches across, right below the nipple. It can occur on just one side or under both nipples and is often quite sore, especially if the area is banged or bumped.

Puberty hormones are the culprit for this breast tissue growth, and it is a very normal – though seemingly little discussed – aspect of puberty in boys. The good thing is that it shouldn’t grow beyond a small bud, isn’t generally very visible (especially under clothes – consider a swim shirt in the summer) and goes away over time as the hormones settle down, generally within a year but it could take up to 2 years.

While this is a fairly common aspect of puberty and just takes time to resolve, it can still be worthwhile to have your son checked out by a pediatrician. I know my friend’s son found a lot of relief in the doctor’s words about how common and normal this is – and it’s always good to get an unusual lump looked at, especially as there are some other rare causes of breast development in males.

The Adolescent Brain – A Kid’s Perspective

Teenager with booksThe adolescent brain: one of the most complex and confusing, yet, majestic things in existence. This article isn’t so much about the teenage mind itself but rather a book about the adolescent brain and the importance of keeping your child’s brain healthy. The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain, written by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. and Terrence Deak, Ph.D. is an insightful book that gives expert advice on how an adolescent’s brain works and how to nourish it to its full potential.

Throughout this article you may wonder how I came upon this book and why I took such an interest in it. Well, my mom also writes for this website and she is working on a master’s in public health so, naturally, my father and I are her outlets and guinea pigs for random health related information. She apparently thought it would be a good idea to get me a cliché “your changing body” book which turned out to be well written and interesting.

The book touches on three main points: nourishment, enrichment, and protection plus lots in between. There are pages on sleep, social interaction, stress, and puberty. It also offers a very technical aspect Young girl thinking with glowing brain illustrationincluding information on what happens in your brain during adolescence and information on different lobes of the brain such as the amygdale and the process of myelination and certain hormones such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone. This aspect is communicated through the use of clever analogies that maintain a relatively common theme and visual aids throughout. For instance, associating ear bud wires and the rubber that encases them with axons(wires) of neurons(ear buds) and myelin(rubber coating).

This book was definitely an eye opener for me. Many things that I do were either acknowledged as positive or negative actions for my body. For instance, I have learned that procrastination will only ever harm you, even if in the short term it seems like an acceptable alternative. Procrastination can affect sleep, stress, and incidentally, the development and long term healthiness of your brain. I was also surprised at how accurate the book’s description of the experiences a teen will have during puberty and adolescence was. The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain talked about how an adolescent may try to find new experiences or expand their social circle. I was able to link several supporting examples to this from my life in the last year alone. For example, last year I became really Adolescent Brain book cover - finalgood friends with several girls at school. I have to admit, these doctors really get me. I mean they would make ideal parents because you would be able to share your life with them and they could give legitimate feedback. The only downside is that they may publish your life experiences in a study.

As an adolescent I need to take the initiative to take care of my brain and body, and to parents I would suggest that you take the initiative to inform your child about some of this information. Purchasing The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain may also be a good idea seeing as how it goes more in depth with these topics and others than I have now. You can obtain this book at many retailers and book stores as well as at The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Much like a car owner’s manual, though, it helps to refer to this book several times and “fix things under the hood as necessary”.

Middle School Food Allergy Blues

tweens eating lunchRemember those long, warm summer days when your child would wake up and come running into your bedroom to say good morning? That faint pitter patter, shuffling mixed with the familiar scent that only belongs to your child and nobody else’s? Hours of cuddles, hugs, late breakfasts and kisses- endless, silly kisses. Then, the beginning of Middle School and all of that just STOPS. No more affection in front of their friends or asking your child if they want another hug. Suddenly, your child is their own person and with food allergies, this new found individuality offers a brand new level of anxiety to keep under control as a parent.

Time to Switch Gears

This will begin a new phase to your life as a food allergy parent. No more “helicopter parent” because this may cause your child embarrassment- I mean, who else starts Middle School and has a parent tagging along all of the time? Before opting to be a living extension of your child, first consider how your child will feel about it as well. Think back to when you started Middle School and ask what would have been acceptable for your parent to be a part of during the school year. As difficult as this will be, I promise that Middle School events are far less food-oriented so that in itself will allow both of you a little extra breathing room. After all, this also means a new learning curve for your child and how they will continue to handle their own safety too.

Ask Your Child’s Permission First

I know this may seem like the opposite of what you have done (ever!) but trust me, this one is especially important to both of you. Rather than declaring that you have signed up for every single committee, every function and all things that may include even a stitch of food, sit down with your child first. Find a time that seems to be comfortable for both of you – that can also offer an extra bonus of bonding time as well. Our son seems to be more willing to talk to us when we go to say good night and he’s winding down from his day. It’s one of the few times during the day when he is not rushing, not stressing about a school assignment or talking to his friends. Sit on your child’s bed, begin with another subject and then ease into what they would like to see you be a part of.

Become a Silent Super Parent

There are ways to still be the helicopter parent, but in disguise. Once you and your child have established the new limits, begin to include the teachers. Many teachers are already feeling overwhelmed with the large number of students in their classrooms. When it comes to a child with life-threatening food allergies, they are always looking for extra back-up. Offer to bring in some of the foods for any class festivities as well as extra wipes. I have often joked that I will be the quiet person in the back of the room collecting garbage and silently wiping down all of the desks. It sounds funny but schools are always asking for wipes so why not tackle two things at once? Help a teacher, keep your child safe and go home knowing that the potential for an allergic reaction has been limited.

Transform into the Cool Parent

Sometimes, this even makes you the cool parent without even trying. Many parents work and many children of those parents often wish that their mother or father was going with them to these fun school outings. Never once have I been asked why I chaperone so many trips and so often. What I have had positive experience with very often include my son’s classmates approaching me, saying hello and asking me if I have any of those “awesome goodies that I had like last time”. They don’t ask of they are allergy-friendly and we don’t tell- but my son is always the first to offer to share even though he cannot have whatever his friends are having. It’s like this with adults too- we all want whatever someone else has that’s different. Thus begins leaving the label of allergy parent and becoming the cool parent.

It’s Ok to STILL Worry

Any parent, allergic or not, will always worry about their child regardless of what happens- always. Remember that this is natural and this does not mean that you are over-protective or under skilled as a parent. When it comes to any situation with your child, it’s always better to check and double-check until you know that the situation is as controlled as it can be by you. Just remember that the new found “cool parent” gets better results if this is handled a bit more calmly rather than when you initially became a food allergy parent. (Unsure? Let me reshare how it most likely was then continue to read- just click here.)

Remember- just as you are getting comfortable with this new found parenting and food allergy freedom, High School will begin! 🙂

Girls’ and Boys’ Puberty Q&As

Girls and boys puberty QsPuberty can be a confusing time because your body and your feelings are changing as you grow up.

Understanding what’s happening will help you cope.

Here are answers to some of the questions that boys and girls often ask about their bodies.

Puberty for boys:

  • When will I start puberty?
    If puberty hasn’t started yet, don’t worry. Most boys begin when they’re around 13 or 14 years old, but some start earlier and some later.

    • We all grow and change at different rates, and there’s nothing you can do to make it happen sooner or later. Your body will change when it’s ready.
    • It’s normal to feel confused or worried sometimes. It can help to talk to someone you trust, such as your dad, mum, brother, or a trusted teacher.
  • What will happen to my body?
    There are plenty of signs that puberty has started. Every boy is different, but here are some of the most common changes to look out for:
  • Getting taller: your body grows, and it may become more muscular.
  • Bigger penis and balls: your testicles and penis grow, and they may feel itchy or uncomfortable.
  • Unexpected erections: your body produces more sex hormones, so you might get erections when you least expect them and you’re not thinking about anything sexy. At other times, you might think about sex a lot.
  • Spots and sweat: hormones can make you sweaty and spotty, but as long as you have good personal hygiene you can still look and feel healthy. Find out about acne.
  • Sperm: you start producing sperm and you may have wet dreams in which you ejaculate (come) while you’re asleep. This is normal.
  • Hair: areas of your body become more hairy, including your armpits, legs, arms, face, chest and around your penis.
  • Deeper voice: you might sound croaky for a while, or you might have a high voice one minute and a low voice the next. It will settle down eventually.
  • On the inside: you may have mood swings and feel emotional, but your feelings will settle down in time.

Puberty for girls:

  • When will I start puberty?
    Puberty usually happens between 10 and 14 years old, but every girl is different.

    • We all grow and change at different rates and there’s nothing you can do to make it happen sooner or later. Your body will change when it’s ready.
    • Your breasts may grow quickly or slowly. You might have your first period, then not have another one for months. There’s no such thing as ‘normal’, so don’t panic if your experience is different from other girls.
    • If you feel confused, you’re not the only person. Try talking to someone you trust, such as your mum, dad, sister, friends or a teacher you trust.
  • What will happen to my body?
    During puberty, it’s normal to experience the following changes:
  • Growing: you’ll get taller, and this might happen quite quickly.
  • Breasts and hips: your breasts and hips get bigger. You might feel itchy or uncomfortable when this happens. This is normal.
  • Hair: hair grows under your arms and around your vagina. Some girls develop hair in other parts of their body, such as their top lip. This is normal.
  • Periods: your periods will start at some point during puberty. You might get period pains before or during your period. Read more about starting periods.
  • Vaginal discharge: your vagina may produce discharge (fluid). This is normal. It’s your vagina’s way of keeping clean and healthy. The discharge should be colourless or white, and shouldn’t smell. If it looks green or yellow and smells, see a doctor because you might have an infection, such as thrush (this is common and easily treated).
  • Spots and sweat: hormones can make you sweaty or spotty, but as long as you have good personal hygiene, you can still look and feel healthy.
  • On the inside: you might have mood swings and feel emotional, but your feelings will settle down eventually.

Photo credit: Cavale Doom; CC license

First Period? Tampons? Tips for Talking to Girls (And Boys)

Most girls start their periods when they’re about 12, but they can start as early as age 8, so it’s important to talk to girls from an early age to make sure they’re prepared before the big day.

Many parents feel awkward talking about periods, especially with pre-teen girls who can seem to get embarrassed so easily.

One way round this is to respond to questions or opportunities as they arise. David Kesterton, who organises the FPA’s Speakeasy courses – which teach parents how to talk to their children about puberty, sex and relationships – says clear speaking and down-to-earth, age-appropriate language is key.

Best Age to Talk about Periods

How do you talk to your kids“Parents often ask me when is the right age to talk to girls about starting periods, and I recommend that it should be an ongoing process rather than a formal sit-down talk. You can use TV ads for tampons, or buying sanitary towels at the supermarket, for example, to start the conversation with girls about periods. Or simply ask your daughter what she already knows and go from there.

“Whenever possible use clear language, like vagina, even though you may feel uncomfortable using these words.

“Emphasise that periods are completely normal and natural, they’re part of growing up and that all women have them.

“And don’t forget boys. They, too, need to learn about periods. Talk to them in the same way as girls about the practicalities, mood changes that can come with periods, and the biological reason behind periods, and it will keep them informed as well as help them to understand what girls go through each month.”

The Questions Girls Ask about Periods

Here are some of the questions you, as a parent, might get asked by girls about periods with suggestions on how to answer them:

How will I know when my periods are soon going to start?

Signs that your period is on its way are if you’ve grown underarm and pubic hair. Typically, you’ll start your periods about two years after your breasts start growing and about a year after getting a white, vaginal discharge. The average girl will get her first period around 12 years old, but it varies from person to person.

How do I get ready for my first period?

Talk to your mum or another adult you trust about what you can expect before it actually happens. It’s a good idea to start carrying sanitary pads or tampons around with you in advance so that when your period finally arrives you aren’t scrambling to find some. If you find yourself at school without a pad or tampon, talk to a female teacher or the school nurse. They’re used to being asked and they’ll want to help you out.

How long will my first period last?

When your first period arrives it might not last very long as it can take your body some months to get into a regular pattern. As a general rule, once they’re settled, you’ll have a period every 28 to 30 days and it will last between three and seven days.

How much blood will I lose?

It might seem a lot, but it’s only about 3-5 tablespoons. It’s not a sudden gush, you’ll just see a reddish-brown stain on your pants or on your sheets when you wake up in the morning.

What if period blood leaks through my clothes?

Part of becoming a woman is dealing with embarrassing mishaps. There are ways of covering up stains until you’re able to change your clothes, such as tying a sweatshirt around your waist. Keep a spare pair of pants (panties*) and tights at school or in your bag, and avoid wearing light-coloured trousers and skirts during a period, just in case.

Should I use pads or tampons?

This is really up to you. Both tampons and towels/pads are safe and suitable for girls who have just started their periods. You’ll probably want to use pads for your very first period, though, as tampons can take a bit more getting used to. It might be worth experimenting until you find the product that suits you best.

Can a tampon get lost inside me?

No, it can’t. When you insert a tampon, it stays in your vagina. All tampons come with a string at one end that stays outside your body. You can remove the tampon at any time using this string.

Read the full answer to: ‘Can a tampon get lost inside me?’

What if I forget to remove my tampon?

If you forget to remove your tampon, it can turn sideways or become compressed at the top of your vagina. This can make it difficult or impossible for you to pull it out. If you think that you’ve left a tampon in and you can’t get it out, go to your GP (family doctor*). They can remove it for you.

Read the full answer to: ‘What if I forget to remove my tampon?’.

Read more articles on the menstrual cycle.

Editor’s Note: * clarification provided for our U.S. audience

Help Communication Challenged Kids Learn to Interpret Emotions

Teaching children how to communicate effectively is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Few skills increase their confidence, social competence and self-esteem more because kids use these skills in every area of their lives. We also know that many kids have difficulty reading emotions. Duke and UCLA are just two of the many universities researching ways to help children diagnosed with communication handicaps. The good news is that you can improve your child’s communication skills and boost his or her emotional intelligence. Here are eight ways to do so:

Teaching-kids-to-communicate.jpg1. Listen more attentively. Attentive listening keeps the lines of communication open so that your children always feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings and experiences with you. You discourage your kids from expression themselves when you cut them off, deny their feelings, lecture, order them, roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders, raise your eyebrows, frown, turn away, or shake your head. (Woah, eh? Not to send you a guilt trip, but… do tune into your communication skills a bit closer, and beware of how influential you are).

2. Help your children send and receive nonverbal messages. Sending and receiving nonverbal messages through body language enhances your child’s social and emotional competence. Often kids don’t listen to your words as much as they watch your posture, gestures, and facial expression, and hear the tone of your voice. Help children understand that their body posture, facial expression, and voice tone send messages and that if they don’t interpret or send nonverbal messages correctly, serious misunderstandings occur.

3. Teach two critical skills – eye contact and smiling. Using the skills of eye contact and smiling increases children’s social success. As you talk with your child, use eye contact. Whenever your child displays a great smile, point it out! By reinforcing these skills and modeling them regularly, your child will soon be smiling more and using eye contact. Hint: These two skills are the most commonly used traits of well-liked kids. They are also easy to teach!.

4. Make an emotion scrapbook. Collect pictures of facial expression in a scrapbook. Include the six basic emotions: happy, sad, angry, surprised, afraid, and disgusted. Now make a game of naming the emotions by asking, “How is this person feeling?” Help your child predict the body language and voice tone that would accompany each expression.

5. Guess people’s emotions. With your child, watch other people’s faces and body language at the playgound, park, or shopping mall. Try together to guess their emotional states.

6. Watch silent movies. Turn off the sound on your TV and watch a show together. Guess how the actors feel based on what you see. Tension behaviors include blinking eyes rapidly, biting nails, twirling hair, clenching jaws, and grinding teeth. Withdrawal behavior include folded arms, crossed legs, rolling eyes, and not facing the speaker. Expressions of interest include nodding, smiling, leaning into the speaker and standing or sitting close to the person.

7. Play emotion charades. A fun game is to have family members play charades using only their face and body. Try to guess the person’s emotion.

8. Observe good listening behaviors. Be on the alert for people demonstrating good listening habits; point them out to your child. The better your child understands what good nonverbal listening behaviors look like, the greater the chance he will use them on his own.

Learning these skills takes practice. At home, provide opportunities for your child to practice a wide range of communication skills, enabling her to get her point across more confidently in the real world.

Just remember: it’s never too early–or too late–to enhance communication skills.


Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at

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