Everything you ever wanted to know about puberty
And speaking of moodiness...
Adults tend to make fun of teen mood swings, and it can be hard not to laugh just a little when your daughter arrives at breakfast like a storm cloud, hollers at you for 10 minutes because you didn’t wash the T-shirt she’d planned to wear, and then answers her cellphone with a sweet: “Oh, hi, Vera. Yeah, everything’s cool.” But while her friends can make light of these moody moments — after all, they’re going through the same thing — parents must recognize that these intense feelings are real and often hard to manage. So try not to roll your eyes.
Terry Stafford of Fort Langley, BC, has three daughters who are all now on the other side of puberty. “Looking back, I can see how much more complicated emotionally they became during that period,” she says. “One daughter had a best friend who practically felt like part of the family, she was always around. Then one day she moved on to a new group of friends and cut my daughter off entirely. That was incredibly painful for her, and I felt helpless.”
Stafford found that the secret to keeping the lines of communication open was listening with respect and not getting upset (or at least not letting it show). “I felt I walked a thin line between being non-judgmental and wanting to give more advice and guidance. One thing that seemed to work was to give my ‘wise words’ in one short statement and then just let it drop,” explains Stafford. Her middle daughter later commented that her mother’s “nuggets” always made her think.
And...(drum roll please)...then there’s sex. Vicki Cross* of Peterborough, Ont., was shocked to discover a note from a boy in her 13-year-old daughter’s backpack that got pretty explicit about what he wanted to do with her. “I realized that I needed to talk to her now about sex and relationships,” Cross says. Discussions about sexuality should really begin before puberty, but if you haven’t brought it up before, now’s the time. On the other hand, don’t panic just because your son starts talking about his “girlfriend.” Their relationship may be more casual than it sounds. “Helen’s 15, and she has a boyfriend,” says Paula Baker. “She told me about six weeks ago that they were going out, but actually they’ve only been out together once since then. What they really do is talk for hours on the phone and on MSN.”
Finally, while it may seem as though friends are of the utmost importance at this stage, all the research shows that family remains a vital and welcome support system for most teens. Yes, they still need you, still love you and together you can survive the ups and downs of puberty’s changes.
*Names changed by request