As promised, I wanted to write a post about the age range of early teens and beyond to give readers options as their kids grow. In the foreground, before you begin to discuss the broader contexts of the social sphere of a teenager, it is helpful to address the physical aspect of our children’s growing and changing bodies. My intention here is not to share every last detail about puberty, but highlight that sometimes at the core of a kid who is beginning to act out, it could simply be attributed to hormonal changes. These hormones are not only a cause of physical changes that can be awkward and confusing, but they also impact our children’s emotions. To add another layer of complexity, I have two boys so I have to be comfortable talking about subjects that I may not personally understand. Those are the times we set aside questions for my husband, or, if that is not an option for you, any trusted adult of the gender in question can be a valuable resource. Below I am going to share a book I used with my oldest son to start the conversation about puberty. I left it up to him when he felt he was ready to read it and then gave him ample opportunity to ask me questions. Yes, sometimes the questions and discussions have been awkward, but it is reassuring that he is getting the right information and more importantly, has a clear understanding what he is going through is normal.
Here is the girl version of the book:
Once you’ve bravely addressed the physical aspect of growing up with your kids, you can move on to the social aspect of their lives. Many of the challenges our teenaged children face revolve around the desire for acceptance. There is not much we can do about this fact except to be aware of it. The best you can do as a parent is to consciously cultivate a solid emotional connection with your child with time and consistent effort. Do what you can to make your kid feel valuable every day….ask them questions, give them a hug, praise them for a job well done. Your efforts do not have to be perfect every time, but somewhere, underneath all their angst, your teenager will appreciate that you are taking time for them.
As our kids make their way in the world, inevitably, we aren’t always going to see eye to eye. When I think back to the disagreements I had with my parents, at the core of it I felt I was being misunderstood. While they had the life experience to back up their perspective, I felt they could not understand all the nuances about why I was making certain decisions. No amount of talking seemed to bridge the divide. Ultimately, there were times we had to agree to disagree. I do not regret the roads I have chosen and have learned well when I made mistakes. Sometimes the best action we can take is no action at all. Have a safety net ready just in case.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent