Back to School: Dealing With Those “Over-the-summer” Body Changes

(as discussed in interview with Saleema Noon on VTV’s Vancouver Breakfast show on Aug. 31, 1999)

Back to school brings with it many changes—new schools, new friends, new classes. But maybe more difficult to deal with are changes in your body (and those of your peers) that have occurred over the summer. All of a sudden, it seems, there’s breasts and body hair everywhere, boys have deep voices, and the halls are buzzing with stories of first periods at summer camp. But don’t panic! Here are some simple tips to help you feel good about growing up and the “P-word” (puberty) as you go back to school:

1. Know that everyone in the world has gone (or will go) through puberty at some point—even Ricky Martin and Madonna—and that the body changes associated with it are normal, natural, necessary and healthy.

2. Demand respect from your peers and adults. If anyone makes fun of or embarrasses you about your body (i.e. Grandpa saying to Grandma “Look dear! Shelley has little boobies now!”) make it clear that you don’t appreciate it and remind them that such comments are a form of sexual harassment.

3. Ask questions until you are blue in the face! There are so many people who want to support you through this time and provide you with the information you need—especially your parents. So don’t be embarrassed to seek them out. If you feel more comfortable, talk to one of your teachers, counselors, minister, or visit a youth health clinic.

4. Grab some great books from the library! They are easy to understand, provide tons of information and have a very low embarrassment factor because you don’t have to talk to anyone. Here are three of my favorites:

– “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie Harris

Great cartoons, easy to read, answers wide range of questions (grade 6-9)

– “What’s Happening To Me?” by Peter Mayle
Perfect for children just entering puberty (grade 2-7). Hilarious picture, light-hearted approach.

– “The New Teenage Body Book” by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
Excellent book to have on hand for reference. Deals with huge variety of topics not just related to sexual health, but to health and well-being in general. Suitable for teens in grade 7 and up.