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Tips for parenting your kid during puberty

Posted January 25

Erin Stewart shares her thoughts on how parents can help their children navigate puberty. (Deseret Photo)

While my children were fighting recently over something of supreme importance like who was touching the toy last, I heard my youngest daughter whip out a new and hilarious insult on her older sister.

“Well, you can have the toy, but guess what? You are going to go through puberty soon, so ha!” she said to her soon-to-be 10-year-old sister, who then collapsed into tears.

Our older daughter vowed she would not go through puberty and would lock herself in her room until the threat had passed.

If only, my dear. If only.

My mom once told me that you have your kids all to yourself until they are about 10 years old, and then you slowly start losing them. As my daughter nears that threshold, I can’t help but feel a sense of impending doom as the dreaded puberty years inch closer and closer.

Already, my interactions with my oldest daughter are changing. It’s subtle, but I can see it. An eye-roll here. A limp-armed hug there. Needing more time alone. Blaming me for forgotten homework. Dropping my hand when her friends are around. (Excuse me while I take this dagger out of my heart.)

I can’t help but feel like I should be hunkering down in some type of shelter, gathering food, water and tampons to weather the coming storm.

So I was grateful when a friend shared this article with me from the Wall Street Journal titled “What teens need most from their parents."

Yes, do tell! What can I do other than sit here waiting anxiously for my daughter’s brain and body to go haywire?

It’s a very thorough and interesting article about how kids’ brains change as they go through the teenage years, but here are my takeaways from the article on what my daughter will need from me most as she navigates through these rough years.

Ages 11-12

Teens at this confusing preteen stage need parents who remain affectionate and supportive. Parents can help teens stay organized by creating routines and help them make good decisions by thinking through the pros and cons together.

Ages 13-14

Help your teens at this emotionally erratic stage by teaching and modeling self-soothing skills such as meditation and exercise. Guide your children into good friendship habits such as how to make amends, how to compromise and how to choose good friends in the first place.

Ages 15-16

Continue to be there for your risk-taking teen as he or she goes through this period of thrill-seeking. Show respect for them and help them talk through problems without arguing or yelling.

Ages 17-18

In this stage of rapid brain growth, teens need parents who can help them navigate complex social situations and interpersonal skills as their social savvy tries to catch up to the rest of their brain development.

Now, I know many of you veteran parents out there are laughing and saying things like, "Oh, just you wait. Let's see how long you can be supportive and affectionate with a teenage child."

I have to admit, you're probably right. I look back on my own teenage years and when I was making poor decisions, I can't imagine my parents saying, "Honey, remember that article we read. Let's show respect for her decisions and help her make a pro and con list on why she shouldn't have snuck out and done exactly what we told her not to do."

Still, it's a start. And as the preteen years near in our home, I'll take any help I can get. Because no matter how hard my daughter may want to slam the door and wait for the storm to pass, she can’t hide from it — and neither can I.

What has helped you stay close to your teen during these tumultuous years?

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her and her newborn son wins hearts with his dimples.

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