It can be tough to start puberty way after other guys you know. They're already growing, their voices are changing. And you might be stuck with this:
- Teased at school for being short
- People think you're younger than you are
- Have trouble keeping up with bigger, stronger guys in PE or sports
- Feel left behind or embarrassed by being a "late bloomer"
Here's the good news: Your body will catch up. And there's a lot you can do to stay happy, fit, and interesting until your body starts its growth spurt.
What’s Taking So Long?
Most of the time, there is NOTHING wrong with boys who start puberty late, says Erica Eugster, MD, an Indianapolis doctor who treats hormone issues in kids and teens. Here's what she wants you to know:
- It might run in your family. Most of the time, if a guy is a late bloomer, his mom or dad was, too (or maybe they both were). Ask your parents if they remember when it happened. Chances are, they can relate.
- Your body might not be that late. Most guys hit puberty sometime from ages 9-14 -- the average age is 12. Puberty is only late if you’re 14 years old and aren’t showing any signs.
- You might be overlooking something. You know your voice will get deeper, you'll get hair in your armpits and groin, and you'll grow taller. But the first thing that changes is that your testicles start growing. Tucked away under your penis, your testicles grow so they can make testosterone, a hormone that triggers the other body changes. But it can be hard to notice that they’ve grown. So you might be in puberty but you just aren't seeing the outward signs yet.
- You'll probably catch up. Your height will probably end up normal for your family whether you go through puberty early, on average, or late. In fact, when your friends and classmates have stopped growing, you’ll probably keep going. “A lot of guys are going to pass their friends by because they’ll continue to grow,” Eugster says.
Until your body finally gets going, here’s how to not feel left behind in the meantime.
How to Keep Up With Other Guys
Don't stress if you're not in puberty yet. And don't compare yourself to other guys. Instead, do this:
Take it in stride. No one always gets what they want exactly when they want it, whether it’s an A on a test or a spot on the sports team, says teen counselor Tina Paone, PhD. Puberty is the same. “You can’t make this change happen any quicker than it’s going to happen,” Paone says, and feeling frustrated isn’t going to help.
Look on the bright side. There might also be some pluses to not starting puberty just yet. You don't have to shave, and you might not need to shower as often! So try not to dwell on when your body will change. And some guys who are maturing might look like adults, but they're not yet ready to act like one, says Cornell University psychologist Jane Mendle, PhD. “Puberty is hard for everyone, regardless of when it happens," she says.
Have fun. Spend your time doing things that you enjoy and do well. You'll feel better about yourself, Paone says. And you don't need to be tall or muscular to ace schoolwork or hobbies like speech and debate, singing, theater, or playing music. Check out afterschool clubs and organizations at your school. Or volunteer for a cause you like.
Catch up on the field. Are sports your thing? Even if other guys are taller and stronger on the sports field or court, you can play smarter and faster, says Michael Bergeron, PhD, who heads the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute. Here are his top two tips:
- Get in shape. If you’re overweight or you get out of breath quickly, that might be a bigger issue than not starting puberty yet. Getting in shape can help you keep up with the other guys better. Make sure that you eat right, drink plenty of water, and sleep enough at night -- that also helps you play better.
- Sharpen your skills. In most pro sports, great athletes come in all heights and sizes. “Just because you’re developing later doesn’t mean you can’t excel in a sport," Bergeron says. "Coaches like someone who’s quick, accurate, and consistent." So ask your coach about drills and other exercises you can do at home that will improve these skills and help you learn to control your body better.