My first and only child is currently deep in the throes of puberty. For my daughter, it started around age 8 and will end by the time she’s 14, as it does for most girls. I knew puberty was coming and I felt ready to help her through it. I delighted in imagining the tender conversations we’d have about coming into womanhood and the beauty of a changing body.
In reality, I’m almost as uncomfortable with all this as she is. I accept my own lack of comfort as one of those surprise parenting curveballs we get every now and then. If you’re about to go through puberty again with your kiddo, here are my best survival tips.
As much as possible, go with it.
During puberty, your child will be changing, almost literally, into a new person. It makes sense that they use this time to experiment with their identities. My daughter has gone through countless interests, completely renouncing the old ones when a new one comes along. She decided she wanted short hair. Then she wanted it shorter, and green. I’m no longer allowed to call her “cute” because she’s edgy now. Pink and purple should be banished from the face of the earth, if you ask her. She gave up on her veterinarian dream and instead plans to be an animator and live in Japan.
You get the picture—she’s all over the place. Sometimes I don’t get it, and I still think she’s cute as heck, but I go with it. I go with it because she’s not hurting anyone and because I want to give her an environment where she feels safe to experiment. Most of all, I go with it because I know if I resist these changes, she’s only going to double down on them. Do you want piercings and tattoos? Because that’s how you get piercings and tattoos.
Read books about it!
This survival tip is straight-forward and should be on a survival list for any big moment in life, I say.
Reading books about puberty and parenting through puberty have saved my sanity. They offer reassurance and remind me that what’s happening here is normal. For those raising girls, I highly recommend the book Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood. I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to talk to my daughter about her body changing. I wanted to make sure she knew what was happening and why, but I struggled finding a neutral way to talk about it. My parenting philosophy is to give my daughter the information and let her decide what’s right for her. So, we read a puberty book together and I gave my input as needed. Easy!
Don’t take puberty personally!
I can’t stress this enough. And believe me, I know, easier said than done.
As the parent of a pubescent child, you’re bound to be a bit of a punching bag. It won’t be pleasant but remember, they do it to us parents because they feel safe. If we’ve done our jobs right, kids know they can roll their eyes and stomp and sulk, and we will still love them.
These days, my daughter thinks I’m obnoxious at best and a clueless embarrassment at worst (my words, not hers). I don’t enjoy watching her pull away from me and feeling some distance between us that wasn’t there before. I do my best not to take it personally, though. It’s only temporary, I tell myself, and it’s a necessary step on the road to adulthood. During puberty, all children feel an instinctive urge to separate themselves from their parents. They have a biological mandate to find independence and learn to live on their own as adults. I always say, “I’m not raising a child, I’m raising an adult.” If I want my daughter to succeed as an adult, I must let this part of adolescence run its natural course.
Trust your parenting.
As parents, we must eventually learn that, as much as we try to prevent it, our kids are going to grow up. They’re going to learn some hard lessons, make mistakes and get hurt. I know you don’t want to hear it, but they will. We can’t protect them from life’s hard knocks. The only thing we really have control over is our parenting. We must trust our ability to parent with compassion. We must trust that we are good role models, instill values and give our children the tools and life skills they need to make it through to adulthood (fairly) unscathed.
If you’re going through puberty (again) and you have other survival tips you’d like to share, be sure to do so in the comments!