Dealing With The Emotions Of Puberty

The joys of parenting an adolescent are many, but puberty and the emotional ups and downs it brings, can also make for some trying times.

Puberty isn't a lot of fun for kids and isn't exactly a picnic for parents either. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you and your child survive the process:

Develop and Express Real Empathy

While you may not understand exactly what your child is feeling, you do know what it's like to go through puberty. Remember how difficult it was to experience those feelings of not fitting in, not to mention raging hormones and sudden changes in your body.

Sympathy is not the same as empathy. Your child does not want your pity. Your child needs to know that someone understands the things he or she is going through. An adolescent may feel completely out of control, without understanding why. Mood swings and emotional outbursts are common, even though your child may not be able to explain why he or she is upset.

Feeling out of control is very frightening, and a reassuring hug and true empathy can go a long way in helping your child deal with these feelings. Just let your son or daughter know that these feelings are typical of this time in life. Assure your child that he is not "crazy" and that other adolescents experience similar feelings, that even you experienced similar feelings. Just knowing that he is not alone can make a big difference.

Encourage Your Child to Talk

Try to get your child to talk to you about what she is going through and feeling. Let her know that you are there for her, and mean it when you say it. If she comes to your room at 2:00 in the morning, listen.

Your adolescent is no longer a child, but he or she is not quite an adult either. Try to remember how awkward it is to be in that position. Do what you can to reassure and encourage your child, but don't baby him or her. Encourage your child to discuss how all this makes him feel, and what the two of you can do to make the transition easier.

If your child won't talk to you, encourage him or her to talk to an older sibling, your spouse, a family friend, or perhaps a counselor.

Validate Your Child

Even if something seems silly to you, realize that it is important to your child. Validate her feelings, by listening and restating what she said, so she knows you not only heard her but also understood what she was attempting to express. If you interpreted wrongly, ask for clarification.

Even if you don't agree with your child, recognize that her feelings are valid. You can certainly explain why you disagree, while attempting to understand why your child feels the way she does. Feelings are not "wrong or right" so be open to allowing your child to express her true feelings.

Reassure Your Adolescent that He or She is Loved

Adolescents can be moody, rude, selfish, and arrogant at times. They are usually only displaying bravado. They frequently feel small and helpless and put on a tough exterior to hide their insecurity.

Continue to reassure your child that you love him or her. Hug your child regularly, even if he pulls away. He or she may not show it, but children need to know they are loved more than ever during this very turbulent time.

Most important of all, say "I love you" every day, whether your child says it back or not.

You and your child will make it through puberty. It does take extra effort on the part of the parent, since children are not usually willing participants in working toward change. However, your child will eventually realize how much you love him and that you just want to help, and he will begin to feel closer to you because of it.

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