Puberty: A Parent’s Guide

going through puberty again

Puberty has invaded my home. I knew it was coming, and thought I was prepared. Alas, I find myself smacked in the face with the four H’s: Hygiene, Hormones, Headaches and worst of all Hindsight.

For some reason I thought one day my child (okay tween) would just take to showering naturally, slather on deodorant with enthusiasm, and not take any and every opportunity to battle me over the smallest of things.

I was dead wrong.

Perhaps, I should have saved some of my old journals so that I could refer back to my own sparkling personality at that age.

Luckily for me (I’m being extremely sarcastic here), I can at least consult old pictures (thanks Facebook friends) and gawk in horror at what appears to be my very own aversion to daily meetings with the shower nozzle and shampoo bottle.

Related: Why Parents Need to Start Those "Grown Up" Talks Earlier

All of this knowledge, and clearly lack there of, led me to consult one of our very own Parenting Gurus, Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D.. She offers tips regarding the four H’s for all parents and tweens alike:

Hygiene:

This can be hard to approach, but hearing it from you can make all the difference. During puberty your tween’s body chemistry is changing.  Because their adrenal glands are more active body odor due to sweat is not uncommon.

While you may feel bad or embarrassed that you need to bring this to your tween’s attention, she is better off hearing it from you than from her peers. 

One way to address this is to purchase the items that she will need to feel fresh and clean. Deodorant is a must at this age. Approach the issue from the view point of a proud parent. Let her know how thrilled you are that she is so mature. (Same goes for your sons!)

Related: Teaching Our Girls To Become Healthy Women

In this context suggest that with this new maturity comes the need to use products created for the cleanliness concerns that come with growth.
Don’t be surprised if she reacts in an angry or upset manner.  This can be an embarrassing issue. The hardest emotions to manage are often embarrassment and shame and she may feel both.

Validate the normalcy of the situation and let her know how much you love her. (All of this goes for your sons as well!)

Hormones:

Adolescent angst is really puberty’s calling card. It is not uncommon for tweens and early teens to seem moody and/or emotionally sensitive. During puberty hormonal changes can contribute to this emotional storm.

Avoid walking on egg shells with your tween, however try not to be too frustrated or offended by his quickly changing moods and attitudes.
Don’t be surprised if one minute she is storming up to his room, and the next she is politely asking you what’s for dinner. Your tween is probably not aware of how angry or frustrated she comes off. Developmentally speaking, this is because your tween is, by nature, egocentric.

As such he is not naturally inclined to see things from your perspective. The good news is that research indicates that, although she may seem angry, it is probably just a fleeting feeling, which quickly dissipates.

Related: 6 Foolproof Ways to Get Your Teens Talking 

This means she is not likely to carry a grudge or even an awareness of how angry or upset she seems. It is helpful to point out gently that what she is doing and/or saying suggests he is frustrated or angry. This will encourage her to practice using perspective taking skills so she can better manage her emotions.

Headaches:

Try not to sweat the small stuff. Puberty is also a time when brain development results in the ability to use abstract thinking.

Coupled with your tween’s developmentally appropriate ego-centrism this can translate into a tween who is ready to do battle over any and every difference of opinion.
After all, your tween probably believes he really does know what he is doing and in some cases (okay many cases) probably believes he knows better than you.

If you want to avoid arguing over everything you are best served picking your battles wisely.

This does not mean you should give up, it simply means you may want to give in on occasion. This will help empower your teen. When you validate his point of view you contribute to his sense of self, which in turn builds his self-esteem and self-confidence.

Hindsight:

You can use examples of your own experiences to validate how he might be feeling but, at all costs, don’t tell him that you understand exactly what he thinks and feels. Because your tween is egocentric he may be under the belief that no one has ever felt of thought the way he does, especially you!  

Related: I Think My Son’s a Pick-up Artist

If you want to send him the message that you empathize with him try talking indirectly about your own experiences. You can say, for example: “When I was your age, I remember feeling ….” This way you can validate how he may be feeling without directly asserting that "you know how he feels.”

When you talk positively about yourself, you help your tween develop his own self-confidence and self-esteem.

The tween and early teen years are a time when your child begins the search for his identity.

The changes in both body and mind can contribute to your child feeling unsure and vulnerable. When you treat yourself kindly, you model the importance of taking care of and appreciating oneself.

Research reflects that adolescents are more likely to think positively about themselves when this behavior is modeled by their parents. In fact, how you feel about yourself has more impact on how your child will feel about himself than direct compliments and encouragement you offer to him.

How did or are you tackling your tween’s introduction to puberty?

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Tara Weng is the national editor of parenting and health for GalTime. She is also a media consultant with a focus on medical and consumer topics. Her professional experience includes a stint as a medical/features producer at the NBC affiliate in Boston, MA and a media relations position at a top teaching hospital in Boston. Tara has also done public relations consulting work and has written for several online and print media outlets. She is a wife and a mother to two children (who are fantastic) and an enthusiastic New England sports fan. 

Jennifer Powell-Lunder and Barbara Greenberg are authors of the hit book, "Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual."  They've set up an interactive website for parents and teens to listen, learn and discuss hot topics and daily dilemmas. You can find it at www.talkingteenage.com.


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