Dealing with the usual ups and downs of puberty can be particularly hard for parents. Here’s how to navigate speed-humps puberty may bring.
As far as advice for parents goes, we might feel like we’re the ones that need help dealing with our child’s puberty, rather than them. What happened to that sweet little baby that thought you knew everything and promised to let you live with them when they were married? Hormones. That’s what happened.
Now, your tween (around nine to 12 years old) or teen is facing a tough road that is as fun as it is confusing, as exciting as it is traumatic. And you’re the one who needs to prepare them for the rollercoaster ahead.
Keep the following in mind that knowing the facts is going to help you (and your child) deal with the usual ups and downs as well as any unexpected speed-humps. So, remember:
- Puberty doesn’t mean maturity: They might be feeling and thinking some grown-up things, but they’re still children. Their abilities to make intelligent decisions, have self-control, or behave in a responsible way isn’t as refined or developed as it needs to be for a mature, well-rounded person. They still need loads of guidance.
- There’s no set timetable: Everyone is different. Some start puberty when they’re eight or nine; others only hit it when they’re 15 or 16 years old. It’s all normal.
- This can be a time of massive insecurity: Tweens and teens can become much more aware of and uncomfortable with the way they look, sound, and act.
- Blooming early is blooming tough: Kids that develop earlier often face ridicule or bullying from others. Be gentle with them.
As a mature adult who has been through puberty, it’s your job to help your child to navigate this important part of their lives. This can be so hard when you’re dealing with their ever-changing moods and personality traits. Puberty doesn’t mean maturity – they might be feeling and thinking some grown-up things, but they’re still children.
Here are some tips:
Have the talk
Before you notice any signs of puberty hitting, talk to your child about what they might expect. If you tell your daughter about periods or your son about “wet dreams” before they happen, your child is less likely to be confused, scared, and embarrassed by it when it does eventually happen. This might feel awkward for you. But, this isn’t about you. Their feelings are, in this case, more important.
Although this is the time when they will probably have the most questions, it’s also the time that they’re likely to feel the least comfortable asking them. So, make sure that you’re approachable. Ask questions that will initiate a conversation about puberty, but don’t direct them at your child. Rather than say, “Have you started developing boobs yet?” you could rephrase it to, “Have you noticed any of the girls in your class wearing a bra yet?” In answering this, they may feel more relaxed to ask you questions. Then, when they start to open up, just listen.
Avoid the temptation to lie about certain aspects that you’re uncomfortable with (masturbation, for instance). And be as thorough as possible. Tell them how having PMS may change their moods, give advice on the best sanitary products to use, or share your tips on how to clean underwear or bed sheets.
Talk about the positives
Try not to make things like periods, body hair, or new smells sound negative because they’ll just become embarrassed about these new developments in their bodies. Rather, find the positive. Growing breasts? Awesome, that means she’s ready for that new bikini! Fluff on his chin? Damn, now the girls are going to be after this new man in the house! Keep it light and positive.
Don’t feel discouraged
You may be met with rolling eyes and patronising snorts as you try to share with or help your child. That’s fine. They might be feeling uncomfortable, insecure, or just plain hormonal on that day. Just keep going. They’re listening to every word, and they can think about it later.
While your child is being consumed by all the new developments, it’s important for you to keep your own balance and joy so that you’re more rational and able to help them. Take time to care for yourself, spend time with your other children and partner, and look after your health.