A Parent’s Guide to Surviving Puberty and Adolescence
Does it feel like you are on a roller coaster with your teen? Puberty can be a seemingly endless soiree of ups and downs. One minute your child is happy, and the next, in tears. What is up? Here are eight tips to help you navigate through this tenuous time and hopefully come out having a stronger relationship with your child.
Puberty has both visible and invisible signs. As they develop sexual characteristics such as breasts, pubic and facial hair, they also have drastic changes in their behavior. Behavioral changes come with the onset of adolescence. When puberty begins, it involves a series of events that follow in a predictable manner but the timing is different for everyone. In girls, both puberty and adolescence begin between the ages of 8 to 14. Boys tend to start a year later than girls (between 9-15).
Teach them about hygiene.
Typically 2-2.5 years after the onset of puberty, menstruation begins in girls. Help your daughter understand the changes coming and teach her how to use sanitary and hygiene products. Create a care package of products that she can take with her to school, sleepovers, etc. Include products such as deodorant, pads, and remedies for cramping, such as ibuprofen. Often girls worry about beginning menstruation when they are in school. Help your child be prepared by creating a discreet package of products that will help her feel more secure. Boys will also go through changes in body odor becoming more prominent. Both boys and girls should understand the importance of wearing deodorant and taking regular showers or baths. Discuss with your children that as young adults these good hygiene habits will shape routine for their lives. Your pediatrician is a great resource and can talk with your child about the changes they can expect. Ask your pediatrician for recommended materials like books for both boys and girls on puberty.
Remember how stressful it was to get a pimple? They are getting ready to embark on a very stressful time in their lives. Teach your child about hormones and how they impact the skin. Purchase products to help prevent acne, such as a daily cleanser and over the counter acne treatments. Teach kids about eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water to help flush the body of impurities that can also contribute to breakouts. If your child’s acne becomes a more significant concern, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to explore prescription options.
Pick your battles.
Hormones rage during this time. Your child is going to start asserting their independence. You should be prepared for mood swings and an attitude. As much as he or she pushes your buttons, it is essential to try to stay calm. Sometimes this means walking away from your child and revisiting the conversation when you are in a better frame of mind. Start the dialogue with your children now and encourage them to communicate with you freely.
Respect their privacy.
This can be a tough one for parents who are used to having more control. Your child’s room, phone calls, texts, and emails should be private and respected by you. That said, you are entitled to know where they are going, when they will be returning, what they will be doing, and with whom. Know your child’s friends and their parents and stay in contact with them.
If your teen will let you, be there for them. Every teen is different. Yours may want to share everything or nothing. You can only tell them that you are there to listen and not judge whenever they need you. If and when they want to talk, listen openly, ask questions, and avoid criticizing. It can be challenging for kids to imagine their parents as teens. Please share your own experiences and struggles as doing so can help your child connect more with you.
Getting an adequate amount of sleep is critical for any teen. Ensure yours follows a bedtime routine that allows them to get 8-10 hours of sleep nightly. Understand that your teen will not always want to be with you. Allow them to have “teen time” and encourage them to be a part of family time. Please give them a curfew for when they are out with their friends.
Know what they are watching and reading and when.
Consider restricting unlimited and uncensored access to the internet and television. You should consider setting restrictions on what your child is permitted to view and listen to on their phone and television. Your child should also have limitations on when they can have access to technology. We recommend not allowing your teen to keep their phone in their bedroom at bedtime to ensure they aren’t texting or surfing the internet when they should be sleeping. Ideally, you should not permit them to have a television in their bedroom. This is to encourage good sleeping habits and ensures controlled access to inappropriate material.
As parents, it is our responsibility to help our children grow to be healthy, independent, responsible, and respectful adults. As pediatric providers, we are here to help you get through the many ups and downs that come with adolescence. We are just a phone call away.