Of course NOT ME.
The other morning my youngest son, DAX, ran into the garage as I was cleaning up a bit and announced, “I HIT PUBERTY!!” With excitement in his voice, you might have thought he climbed to the top of some huge mountain, crossed the great divide, or solved some global issue of poverty. He was ecstatic.
“Hey pal, what exactly do you mean. Did your voice change?”
“No Dad. I got armpit hair!!!”
OH GEEZ I thought to myself. Here we go.
I have two teenagers in the house now, and we’ve been through this a couple of times already. Most of you know, my primary work is with teenagers and parents around the country helping to coach and mentor students to be successful adults. AND, if we’re honest, we have to travel through this time to help our kids understand what’s happening, and how they can manage the changes in their bodies. Here’s a few thoughts to help our young pubescent students
Don’t brush it under the rug
All to often, parents are scared of this topic. We don’t want to talk about it because we’re not sure if we’ll give them any “ideas” they don’t already have. So most of my sessions with parents are heavy on encouraging parents to take the lead role in conversation. I know it’s weird and uncomfortable, but if you don’t step in and help your kids understand what’s going on, who will? I guarantee there are sources in the media, their friends, and the schools they attend that have ideas about how they should walk through this puberty time. I happen to believe this is a BEAUTIFUL time to develop long-standing trust and relationships as your kids are looking for someone who will love them through the trauma.
Their bodies are changing physically, physiologically, mentally, emotionally, and all these add up to the development of who they are.
Take some time to talk to your kids and remind them how much you care for them through the transformation. Girls are going to be embarrassed. Boys are going to wonder. Girls are going to grow tall, FAST. Boys are going to add to their insecurities that may already exist until they embrace the new them. Be sure to help them understand what’s going on, and why. If you need help, give me a ring. I’d love to help.
Don’t ever make fun of their changing
Parents can often take this puberty opportunity to laugh with their kids together. But let me give you a little insight…MANY of the students who struggle with their physical appearance tell me they are embarrassed because a Mother or a Father made fun of their voice changing or their height. You might think that’s a good way to laugh with your kids, but remember; student that are vulnerable through puberty don’t think it’s a laughing matter. They’re seriously trying to understand why they look different today than they did yesterday. AND, they’re wondering who will accept them at who they are.
So take the cues from your kids. If you feel the air being sucked out of the room when you make a sly comment, be careful to come back and encourage. I like to use a 5 – 1 ratio. If I feel like I’ve messed up once, I try to replace that failure with 5 more encouraging comments. Things like “I think you’re beautiful today” I’ll say to my daughters. Or, “Man those muscles are really making you look manly” I’ll say to my sons.
Try and remember how you felt going through this vulnerable time, and help your kids know you’re in this with them.
The Emotional Roller Coaster
GET READY. Boys and Girls are about to step into the emotional roller coaster. And they don’t get it. So when you see your kids blow up at something that seems insignificant to you, IT IS SIGNIFICANT TO THEM!! You have to really be on your game to sense how your kids are interpreting their environment during the transformation. You may feel like they are directing anger or insecurity toward you, but most of the time I find they’re just trying to make sense of the world around them. Don’t take it personally.
And finally, be careful the environments you put them in. Some faith communities are really good at preying on the emotional development of students through this time. They don’t intentionally wish to harm kids, but without someone who is really in tune with the way the Teenage Brain works, you’re risking a very dangerous spiritual fail in the life of your student.
More on that tomorrow. I’m trying to keep these blogs under 1000 words, and I’m about out of space here. So tomorrow I’ll talk about spiritual and emotional teenage development post-puberty.
But until then…My boy has armpit hair. So yea…there’s that!