As soon as a child reaches puberty, parenting takes on a completely different look and focus. Children can turn from angels to scary creatures in no time. This is a time when physical, emotional and social changes occur.
Boys begin to develop facial and pubic hair and their voices start squeaking then deepens. Girls grow pubic hair and breasts, and start their period. Both may be concerned about these changes and how others see them. Boys experience growth spurts and girls start developing hips.
At this time, peer pressure becomes an issue. Having sex, using drugs and alcohol, and tobacco products are topics of peer pressure, and your child has to navigate all of these issues at once. Between ages 12 and 14, children make more of their own choices about friends, school, sports and studying. They become more independent thinkers, with their own unique interests and personality. Parents, through all of this, you are still very important.
In this age group, children might:
- Show more concern about their body image, looks and clothes.
- Focus on themselves, moving back and forth between high expectations and lack of confidence.
- Experience more moodiness.
- Be more interested in the influence of their peer group.
- Express less affection toward parents, seeming rude or short-tempered.
- Develop eating problems.
- Feel sadness or depression, which can lead to poor grades at school, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex and other problems.
In this age group, children might:
- Develop a stronger sense of right and wrong.
- Have more ability for complex thought.
- Be better able to express themselves and feelings through talking.
POSITIVE PARENTING TIPS
Here are some things you can do as a parent to help your child during this time:
- Be honest and direct with your child about sensitive subjects like sex, drugs, drinking and smoking.
- Meet and get to know your child’s friends.
- Show an interest in your teen’s school life.
- Encourage your teen to make healthy choices while helping them make their own decisions.
- Respect your teen’s opinions and consider his or her thoughts and feelings. It is very important to ensure she or he knows that you are listening.
- When there is a conflict, be clear about goals and expectations, but allow your teen’s input on how to reach these goals.
Talking and listening are key words; not yelling and dictating. You play an important role in keeping your child safe, no matter how old he or she is. A few tips to help you protect your child suggests that you:
- Make sure to emphasize the importance of wearing seat belts. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 12- to 14-year-olds.
- Encourage your teen to wear a helmet when riding a bike or a skateboard or using inline skates; riding on a motorcycle, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle; or playing contact sports. Injuries from sports and other activities are common.
- Talk with your teen about the dangers of drugs, drinking, smoking, and risky sexual activity. Ask what he knows and thinks about these issues, and share your thoughts and feelings. Listen and answer questions honestly and directly.
- Talk with your teen about the importance of having friends who are interested in positive activities. Encourage her to avoid peers who pressure her to make unhealthy choices.
- Know where your teen is and whether an adult is present. Make plans with him for when he will call you, where you can find him, and what time you expect him home.
- Set clear rules for your teen when she is home alone. Talk about such issues as having friends at the house, how to handle situations that can be dangerous (emergencies, fire, drugs, sex, etc.), and completing homework or household tasks.
- Encourage your teen to be physically active. She might join a team sport or take up an individual sport. Helping with household tasks such as mowing the lawn, walking the dog, or washing the car also will keep your teen active.
- Meal time is very important for families. Eating together helps teens make better choices about the foods they eat, promotes healthy weight, and gives your family members time to talk with each other.
- Keep television sets out of your teen’s bedroom. Set limits for screen time, including cell phones, computers, video games, and other devices, and develop a family media plan.
- Make sure your child gets the recommended amount of sleep each night: For teenagers 13-18 years, 8–10 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
Don’t allow your teen’s behaviors to get so out of control that you lose your authority as a parent. When or if you suspect anything out of the ordinary in your child’s activities, attitudes and routines, speak up. Stop, take inventory, compose yourself, gather your words, and begin a conversation. Don’t accuse; talk and then listen. Remember, teens are striving for more independence, and if they don’t feel like parts of decisions, they may very well rebel. They push back-so don’t push. Discuss.
These years do not have to be tumultuous ones, but depending on how well you manage your growing child’s changes in focus, it can be fun and exciting. No matter what you do, these years will be memorable. If you have any more tips to share, please do so. Leave a comment. Your perspective can always help someone else through this time, as a parent or teen.