I was asked to write this week’s Tip on puberty, probably because I am currently surviving my fifth trip through this stage of life with my children. Being a five time survivor, all I have learned is that puberty is when girls get mean and boys get stinky! I know puberty has hit in my house when the child who I used to have to shoe-horn into the shower now takes a 45 minute shower, three times a day. I definitely believe the hormones coursing through young people’s bodies do addle their thinking. For me, the hallmark of puberty is saying to my child, “What were you thinking? Seriously, WHAT were you THINKING?”
Puberty, and the teen years, can be scary. It’s a time when we realize our children are starting to make more and more of their decisions without us, and the consequences of those decisions could be serious, even fatal. As a parent, my job is to protect my children – puberty is a sign that my job is changing. No longer will I be able to physically be there and protect my children; they are getting ready to go out into the world in a few short years. The protection I will be giving them is hoping that I have taught them well, how to make good decisions, and to stand up to people who want them to do something stupid or dangerous.
The teen years are a time when our children seem to do their best to convince us that they don’t listen to anything we say or any advice we are giving them. That simply isn’t true. Study after study shows that parents are still the primary influence on youth, even more so than their friends. If you want your teen to keep talking openly to you, this is the time to avoid criticizing how your teen dresses or how their friends look. Instead, be open to conversation and don’t always come across as having the answers. Comments like, “wow, that’s a tough situation – I’m not sure what I would do in that situation” can help your teen open up to you.
The family meal becomes even more important and is a time when we can talk to our teens – on the days that they are open to talking! Rather than ask teens how their day at school was (to be followed by a grunt from your teen), instead present them with a problem from your day and ask them for advice. Presenting a situation, “I am really stressed at work. I have all these projects to get finished and my boss doesn’t seem to understand I can’t get it all done. I want to do a good job, but I just don’t see how I can” gives your teen a chance to see that you are seeing them as growing up. It gives them an opportunity to relate your situation with some of the problems they may be facing. Plus, you may be surprised at the good advice your teen may give you!
Holli, CEO and Mom of 7