Your Healthy Teen


Teens entering puberty experience a great number of changes in their appearance, thinking ability, and social interactions. Not all adolescents go through puberty at the same time. Boys tend to show the physical signs of puberty between the ages of 11 – 14, whereas girls typically begin puberty slightly earlier, between the ages of 9 – 13. However, it is important to note that both the physical and mental development depends on many factors including:

  1. genetics 
  2. family 
  3. friends
  4. values 
  5. neighbors
  6. others in society

The physical changes boys experience during puberty include:

      • Height and weight increase
      • Body hair grows in the pubic area, under his arms, and on his face, and becomes thicker on his legs
      • Muscles become stronger
      • Vocal cords get thicker and longer and his voice deepens
      • Sweat and oil glands become more active and his body odor changes
      • Acne (pimples) may develop
      • Testes, scrotum, and penis mature and become ready for reproduction, making it possible for him to get a girl pregnant

      The physical changes girls experience during puberty include:

          • Height and weight increase
          • Body hair grows in the pubic area and under her arms
          • Body hair on the legs and arms grows
          • Breasts start to develop; nipples become raised and this area may be tender
          • Waist and hip development also begins, making her body a little rounder
          • Sweat and oil glands become more active and her body odor changes
          • Voice changes from a girl's to a women's
          • Acne (pimples) may develop
          • Ovaries become active, causing hormone production to begin
          • Ovulation (the monthly release of an egg) and menstruation (periods) begin, making it possible for her to get pregnant


          All living things reproduce. Reproduction is the process by which organisms create more organisms like themselves. It is one of the factors that sets living things apart from nonliving things. Although the reproductive system is not essential to keeping an individual alive, both the male and female reproductive systems are essential for procreation. Understanding the systems, what they do, and the problems that can affect them, can help you better understand your child’s reproductive health.

          Male Reproductive System

          Male Anatomy

          Male Anatomy

          Interactive Male Reproductive System

           Click here for a fully interactive diagram of the male reproductive system. Must have Flash player installed. 

          Female Reproductive System

          Female Anatomy

          Female Anatomy

          Interactive Female Reproductive System

           Click here for a fully interactive diagram of the female reproductive system. Must have Flash player installed.


          Brain Development

          Although your teen is beginning to look more like an adult, it’s important to remember that his/her brain is still developing. According to research, the human brain does not fully mature until the mid 20’s. This suggests that in teens, the parts of the brain involved in emotional response.

          Teens are fully developed, whereas the parts of the brain involved in controlling certain responses are still maturing. One of the last areas to develop is the prefrontal cortex. This  part of the brain is responsible for processing information, making judgments, controlling impulses, and anticipating consequences. 

           It is important to remember that there are many changes taking place during the adolescent years. Teens may act on impulse without regard for risk. Young teens may be able to think more like adults, but they still lack the experience that is needed to behave like adults. 


          The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction

          A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain

          Mental/Physical Health 

          The mental changes that take place during the adolescent years may not be as easy to see, but they can be just as remarkable as the physical changes. During this time, teens change in the way they think, reason, and learn. They become better equipped to think through problems and consider the consequences of their actions. Theses cognitive changes enable teens to learn more advanced and complicated material in school. They eagerly apply learned knowledge to problem solving and explore different ideas or options. The mental changes they experience also carry over to their emotional lives. Since they have the ability to reason, teens may change the way they interact with their parents, guardians, or other trusted adults. They are able to anticipate how conversations may go and can prepare their response or explanation ahead of time.

          The teen years are extremely stressful. Stressors can include:

          • family problems
          • trouble in school
          • demanding schedules
          • high expectations
          • illness
          • overachieving
          • friends
          • lack of sleep. 

          Too much stress can cause a teen to experience: 

          • headaches
          • stomachaches
          • eating and sleeping disorders
          • forgetfulness
          • falling grades
          • sadness
          • impatience
          • frustration
          • problems concentrating 

          Helping your teen cope with stress in a healthy manner is important to their overall well-being. Encourage your teen to talk about what may be bothering them so that you can address issues as they come up. Make sure they find time to relax and participate in activities they enjoy, like reading or listening to music. In addition, a proper diet and plenty of water along with ample exercise can keep their body healthy and prepared to the deal with stress.

          Although mood swings and stress are typical during adolescence, some teens may exhibit signs of a diagnosable mental disorder, such as depression. Spending quality time with your teen allows you to observe any changes in behavior, for example withdrawal, loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyed, or acting out. If you suspect that your teen may be suffering, seek help. Mental health professionals, school counselors, clergy, and community resources are available in most communities, even if you don’t have insurance.



          The Conversation

          How to Start the Conversation About Sex and Growing Up

          Contrary to popular belief, teens want to hear what their parents or guardians have to say about sex, sexuality, and relationships. However, many parents are unsure or afraid of how to approach the subject or start the conversation.

          In a 2010 survey, 46 percent of teens said that parents most influenced their decisions about sex. By comparison, just 20 percent said friends most influence their decisions. Six in 10 teens (62%) wished they were able to talk more openly about relationships with their parents [1] .  

          Talking to your tee about sex should be an on-going discussion, not a one-time chat. Conversations about sex and sexuality should start early and happen frequently throughout the teen years.

          Look for teachable moments to begin conversations about sex. Be open and honest as you discuss information. The more comfortable and open you are, the more receptive your teen will be in return. Remember, teens are receiving messages about sex from their peers, tv shows, music, the internet, and movies. It is important that they also receive messages about sex from their parents or guardians.

          1. Albert, B. (2010). With one voice 2010: America’s adults and teens sound off about teen pregnancy. Washington, D.C.: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.  

          Door Closers and Openers


          Door Closers

          Don’t slam the door on “the talk.”  When engaging in conversation with your teen, it is important to avoid comments that shut them out.  Door closers like the ones listed here may express judgment or disinterest, and create barriers to effective communication: 

          • “Where did you HEAR that?” 
          • “Wait until your Dad gets home!” 
          • “Why are you asking me that?” 
          • “You’re not old enough!” 
          • “I’ll tell you when you need to know!” 

          Door Openers

          Even if you’re nervous about “the talk,” be sure to listen to what your teen is asking and approach the topic in an open and inviting way. The following comments or phrases suggest you want to discuss the subject further:

          • “I’m glad you asked me that question.” 
          • “I do not know, but I can sure find out.” 
          • “Do you want to talk about it?” 
          • “It is okay to feel confused.” 
          • “It is normal to wonder about that.” 

          Creative conversation starters

          • What is the difference between dating, going out, and hooking up?
          • How many sexual partners in a lifetime is too many?
          • How many is it OK for your sexual partner to have had?
          • What do people tell you to get you to do what they want?  List at least ten.
          • How old do you think someone needs to be before they have sex?
          • How long do you have to be going out with someone before you have sex?
          • What are your deal breakers?
          • What are your deal makers?
          • What do you need from me to make smart decisions?

          Conversation Do's and Don'ts


          • Don't talk about your personal experiences. 
          • Don't say "back in my day..."
          • Don't shut the door to further discussion. 
          • Don't preach. 
          • Don't be shocked or appalled. 


          • Listen. 
          • Ask open-ended questions. 
          • Be honest. 
          • Ask for clarification on terms you don't understand. 
          • Set limits. 
          • Share your values. 


          Where to go for more information:

          The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

          Advocates for Youth

          Top 10 Tips for Talking to Your Teen

          1. Encourage communication by reassuring kids that they can talk to you about anything. 
          2. Take advantage of teachable moments. A friend’s pregnancy, news article, or a TV show can help start a conversation.
          3. Listen more than you talk. Think about what you’re being asked. Confirm with your child that what you heard is in fact what he or she meant to ask.
          4. Don’t jump to conclusions. The fact that a teen asks about sex does not mean they are having or thinking about having sex.
          5. Answer questions simply and directly. Give factual, honest, short, and simple answers. 
          6. Respect your child’s views. Share your thoughts and values and help your child express theirs. 
          7. Reassure young people that they are normal—as are their questions and thoughts. 
          8. Teach your children ways to make good decisions about sex and coach them on how to get out of risky situations.
          9. Admit when you don’t know the answer to a question. Suggest the two of you find the answer together on the Internet or in the library.
          10. Discuss that at times your teen may feel more comfortable talking with someone other than you. Together, think of other trusted adults with whom they can talk. 

          Source: Advocates for Youth



          The Facts

          Sexually Transmitted Diseases [STDs] 

          Anyone who has had sex or is currently engaging in sexual activity may be at risk for an STD. Most STDs are asymptomatic, meaning that a person may have an STD, but are free of any symptoms. Although a sexual partner may not have visible sores, blisters, or pimples in their genital area, they may still have an STD. While many STDs are curable, some are not and carry emotional and physical consequences that can last a lifetime. Sexually active teens should talk to their health care provider and a parent or trusted adult about regular testing. 

          Common symptoms (if present) of STDs include: 

          • Bumps, rash, warts, or sores on or near the genital area
          • Unusual discharge (in color, texture, amount, or odor) in males or females
          • Pain, burning, or itching in the pubic area
          • Pain when urinating
          • Pain in the abdominal area 

          STDs can be caused by a virus or bacteria.  

          Bacterial STDs are caused by a bacteria or parasite and are curable with proper medication. These STDs include:


          • The most frequently reported bacterial STD
          • Symptoms show up 7-28 days after having sex
          • Symptoms could include discharge from the penis or a burning sensation when urinating in men and abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating in women
          • Most infected people will have no symptoms (asymptomatic)
          • If not treated, complications can include Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women and infertility/sterility in both men and women
          • Can be passed to babies during childbirth
          • Is curable with antibiotics  (medication)


          • The second most common STD
          • Symptoms show up 2-21 days after having sex
          • Symptoms could include burning sensation when urinating, or a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis in men, and increased vaginal discharge, or vaginal bleeding between periods in women
          • Most women do not have symptoms (asymptomatic)
          • Some men have no symptoms
          • Can be passed to babies during childbirth
          • Is curable with antibiotics (medication)


          • There are 3 stages of syphilis and symptoms vary in stages. Symptoms include:
            1. Stage I – appearance of a firm, round, and painless chancre (sore) at the infection site
            2. Stage II – rash on palms of hands, soles of feet, and on the body
            3. Stage III – difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, dementia, damage to internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints
          • There is an incubation period of 10-90 days (average 21 days)
          • Can cause infections in men, women and unborn babies during pregnancy
          • Is curable with antibiotics


          • “Trich” is the most common curable STD in young, sexually active women
          • An estimated 7.4 million new cases occur each year in women and men
          • Symptoms show up 5-28 days after infection, but many people have no symptoms
          • Symptoms could include itching or irritation inside the penis, burning after urination or ejaculation, or some discharge from the penis in men and itching, burning, redness, or soreness of the genitals, discomfort with urination, or thin discharge with an unusual smell that can be clear, white, yellowish, or greenish in women
          • Is curable with medication


          Viral STDs are caused by a virus. These STDs are not curable, but their symptoms can be controlled with medication or proper medical treatment. These STDs include:


          • Genital herpes is very common. In the US, about 1 in 5 adults have it (about 50 million people) and most do not know they have it
          • Spread from skin-to-skin contact through oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone who has symptoms (an outbreak)
          • Can also spread between outbreaks or when there are no symptoms present (this is called “asymptomatic viral shedding”)
          • Medication may be given to reduce effects of symptoms, but there is no cure for genital herpes


          • HIV is a virus that destroys a person’s immune system and allows numerous infections and cancers to develop
          • If HIV is left untreated, a person could develop AIDS
          • Symptoms vary in stages and include severe flu-like symptoms such as swollen glands, night sweats, specific cancers and infections
          • It can take a few months to several years from initial infection with HIV to develop AIDS, with the average time being 11 years
          • There is no cure for HIV/AIDS and no vaccine to prevent it, but there are medications to help treat specific symptoms, cancers and disease/infections
          • There are also medications to help reduce the amount of the virus in a person, although these medications won't cure someone of HIV, it can help them live a long life
          • A person should get tested at least once a year if they are engaging in risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex or sharing needles of any kind, even those used for piercing and tattoos


          • There are many types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV); about 40 types are sexually transmitted and cause genital HPV in both men and women.
          • Genital HPV is passed on through oral, anal and vaginal sex, or intimate skin to skin contact with an infected person
          • Low-risk HPV types can cause genital warts
          • High-risk HPV can cause serious cervical sores, cervical cancer and other genital cancers
          • Most HPV infections are asymptomatic, meaning a person might not have any symptoms of infection
          • There is no cure for HPV, however there is a vaccine to help prevent infection and medications to treat the symptoms if present
          • Unfortunately, there is no test for men, unless symptoms are present. Sexually active women should receive routine Pap Smears and Well Women Exams from their health care provider

          Hepatitis B

          • A contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
          • The incubation period (the time of exposure to the onset of symptoms) can be anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months  
          • Spread when blood, semen or other bodily fluids, such as vaginal secretions, and saliva from an infected person enter the body of someone who is not infected
          • Symptoms include nausea, fever, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellow skin), enlarged liver
          • There is no cure for Hep B, however there is a vaccine to prevent it and medication to treat the symptoms
          • This vaccine is usually given before a young person enters the 7th grade, but can be given as early as birth. Check with your health care provider to find out if you've received the vaccine

          Aside from the immediate consequences of a STD, there may also be long-term medical complications and emotional distress. STDs increase the risk of HIV infection, which is the virus that causes AIDS. Other STDs can lead to blindness, brain damage, cervical cancer, infertility, and liver disease. In addition, STDs can be passed on to newborns at birth, causing serious health complications for the infant. Those diagnosed with a STD can also suffer emotionally and struggle with embarrassment, anger, resentment, or depression. 

          Source: It's your sex life  


          There are many birth controls options available to help prevent pregnancy. The surest way for a person to prevent a pregnancy is to practice abstinence. However, if your teen chooses to have sex, one of the following methods can be used.  

          Pills — 99% effective, 92% if not careful each time

          • A daily pill with hormones in it that prevents pregnancy
          • Must be taken at the same time each day by the woman
          • Many different kinds
          • The hormones in the pill work by:
            1. Keeping eggs from leaving the ovaries. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is no egg to join with sperm.
            2. Making cervical mucus thicker. This keeps sperm from getting to the eggs.
          • Does not protect against STDs and HIV

          Ortho Evra Patch— 99% effective, 92% if not careful each time

          • A small patch that sticks to your skin that prevents pregnancy
          • Hormones on the patch are absorbed directly through the skin 
          • The hormones in the patch are the same hormones that are in the birth control pill and work in the same way as the pill 
          • Is applied to the skin once a week for 3 weeks by the woman 
          • Can be applied to four different areas on the body
          • Does not protect against STDs or HIV

          NuvaRing Vaginal Ring — 99% effective, 92% if not careful each time

          • A small round, flexible ring with hormones in it that is inserted into the vagina that prevents pregnancy
          • While the ring is in place in the vagina, hormones in the ring are continuously released
          • Inserted by the woman and left in place for 3 weeks
          • The hormones in the ring are the same hormones that are in the birth control pill and work in the same way as the pill  
          • Does not protect against STDs or HIV

          Depo-Provera Shot — 99% effective, 97% if not careful each time

          • Hormonal shot given to the women every 3 months by a health care provider that prevents pregnancy
          • The hormones in the shot are similar to the hormones that are in the birth control pill and work in the same way as the pill  
          • Does not protect against STDs or HIV

          Implanon/Nexplanon — 99% effective

          • A small, flexible plastic rod the size of a match stick that contains hormones and prevents pregnancy
          • Inserted under the skin of a women's arm by a health care provider
          • May be left in place for up to 3 years, can be removed early by a health care provider if desired
          • The hormones in the shot are similar to the hormones that are in the birth control pill and work in the same way as the pill   
          • Does not protect against STDs or HIV

          Mirena Progestin US (IUD) — 99% effective

          • Small, T-shaped, flexible plastic device inserted into the uterus by a health care provider that prevents pregnancy
          • May be left in place for up to 5 years; can be removed early by a health care provider if desired
          • The hormones in the shot are similar to the hormones that are in the birth control pill and work in the same way as the pill  
          • Does not protect against STDs or HIV

          ParaGard Copper IUD — 99% effective

          • Small T-shaped piece of soft, flexible plastic wrapped with copper that is inserted into the uterus
          • Prevents pregnancy primarily by stopping sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg
          • Does not stop the ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulating)
          • May be left in place up to 10 years, can be removed early by a health care provider if desired
          • Does not protect against STDs or HIV

          Male Condom - 98% effective if used correctly, 85% if not careful each time

          • Made from latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene
          • Helps protect against STDs and HIV
          • Worn by a man 
          • Cannot be used simultaneously with a female condom
          • Must wear a new condom with every sex act

          Female condom - 95% effective if used correctly, 79% if not careful each time

          • Made from a nitrile polymer (non-latex) which is strong, soft, and heats to body temperature
          • Helps protect against STDs and HIV 
          • Worn by a woman inside her vagina 
          • Cannot be used simultaneously with a male condom
          • Must wear a new condom with every sex act