Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Talking to your child about puberty

Guest Blogger Allison Gamble talks about puberty:

A Growing Conversation
It was awful: uncontrollable sweating, shaky voice, overwhelming emotions that left them feeling moody, sensitive, and flustered. No, we're not talking about the signs of puberty (yet). We're talking about some of the symptoms parents experience just thinking of talking to their children about puberty. However, instead of waiting to one day dramatically give the big talk, many parents are finding success with smaller, casual dialogues over time. Fortunately it doesn't take a psychology degree to make this strategy of communication work. Parents who engage their children in honest conversations while paying close attention to both their own and their children's feelings can keep communications open about some very important subjects.

Physical Considerations
Puberty for a kid means going through some major physiological changes, and most considerate parents don't want to make that even harder. When talking to your child about those changes, try to look visibly comfortable about it. Telling a youngster about procreation with crossed arms and nervous glances isn't going to convey a lot of confidence. Make sure you're sending good signals with your body language, and paying attention to theirs.

A good time to talk could be when performing chores together: start by mentioning how much you appreciate what a help your child's been as he's gotten older, and how there are good and interesting changes coming you want him to be ready for. Or maybe take him out to eat someplace private and talk about a friend or family member who recently had a baby. Find laid-back times to get your child to discuss important ideas with you, and allow plenty of comfortable pauses for him to speak his mind. Being honest and casual without slipping into interrogation mode can get you far.

A Healthy State of Mind
While we often associate puberty with physical transformation, it's important to think about both your own and your child's mental state during those years. Increased hormones and new experiences means there will be ups and downs for everyone involved. It's important to let children know that what they're feeling, as wonderful and awful and confusing as it may be, is natural and that you're there to talk about it.

Never forget the impact your own feelings and actions are going to have on kids. They're going to notice if you're too stressed to talk about something important, so be careful what you let yourself get stressed about. Your kids will also learn a lot from your own relationship to your body and to sex. What they learn from your relationships is largely up to you, the parent.

The element of the unknown in the future often worries us all, but as an adult who survived puberty (just barely), you can offer your kids great consolation through wisdom and preparation. Reminding them of the strength, knowledge, and independence that comes with growing older can give them the positive attitude they need to avoid many of the pitfalls of puberty.

Learning From Others
Many parents are waiting for the perfect time to spring "the talk," worrying about "corrupting" childhood by talking too early, or fear delaying till it's too late. The truth is you'd probably be surprised by what your child already knows. Children learn all the time, and their knowledge can either come from you or it can be left up to other sources. The best means to keep children sharing later down the road and to make an impact on their beliefs is by establishing open and casual dialogue early on.

You might be shocked by what your children have already learned, or by the opinions they've begun forming, and may perhaps feel tempted to strongly lecture them on what's acceptable and unacceptable. While cultivating children's sense of values is important, you shouldn't make them feel bad about having been honest with you. Let them know you're there to listen without judging and that you're ready to answer any questions they might have.

The Guidance They Need
I'm guessing that cave people around the cave fire turned to each other and said "Kids grow up so fast these days..." However, nowadays we truly do live in a rapidly-changing world. It's important for your children to know that while maturation is part of life, they needn't let other people pressure them into activities beyond their years. Parents who emphasize healthy communication and help their children understand the changes they're going through will give them the knowledge they need to stay strong, smart, and in control during one of the most trying phases of life.

About the author:
Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing."

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