Adults often ask me, “What question do you hear most from teens?” The most frequent concern that teens have, and the one most often voiced by patients, and in letters from readers of our books is, “Am I normal?”
This question can be asked in many different ways. One teen might say, “I’m fourteen, but I look about ten, and all the other guys in my class look like grown men – am I normal?” Another might say, “My feelings are confused. Sometimes I love my parents and sometimes I hate them!”
Still, another teen might say, “Is it normal to have a crush on a teacher who happens to be the same sex as you?”
And a young girl might wonder, “If one breast is slightly larger than the other, is that normal?”
Whatever their worries about being “normal,” teens need reassurance that adolescence is a time of bodies that change in their own, normal timetables. A time when feelings are strong and often conflicted. A time when crushes on the same sex, and opposite sex teachers is a normal part of looking for role models outside the family.
When the parent is in doubt, a physician can help to reassure both parent and teen.
Dr. Wibbelsman, M.D., is an award-winning author and former “Dear Doctor” columnist for Teen magazine. Chair of Adolescent Medicine for the Permanente Medical Group, Northern California, he is chief of the Teen-Age Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School. Dr. Wibbelsman is the news anchor for a Bay Area television series, “Medicine in the Nineties”.