You might have already noticed that your sweet, innocent, butter-wouldn’t-melt child is starting to become a grumpy, sullen teenager lolloping around saying things like, ‘I hate you’. Surges of hormones mixed with physical changes in the body can be a confusing time for boys and girls, as well as being challenging for the whole family.
Struggling to find an identity, pressure from her friends and developing her independence are just a few of the things that make the teenage years a confusing time.
Many parents feel stressed by their teenager’s new behaviour and worry about whether or not it is normal, but, in most cases, it’s just the natural process of becoming an adult. Nurture your teenager and be patient. Here are a few of the things both boys and girls of this age might be feeling...
You teenager feels like nobody understands her, so she could be extra sensitive. She might want to talk to someone else to share the burden of her feelings. Communication with boys on the other hand can take a huge effort with minimal results.
The teenage body changes quickly and your child might feel weird and uncomfortable about it. Spotty skin, body odour and hair in places they’ve never had it before are all things that happen in the teenage years.
Both boys and girls might feel self conscious and worry about how ‘normal’ they are compared to friends. Reassure them that everyone their age feels self conscious and awkward, just like them.
Intense and new emotions
Teens will have felt emotions before, but suddenly they become magnified and very intense during puberty (average age for girls to hit puberty is 11 and 12 for boys, and the process lasts about four years).
Their new adult brains are trying to adjust and, in the beginning, it can feel pretty difficult, but it does get easier. One minute kids will be perfectly happy with their lives, the next they might hate everything about it and be in floods of tears. Puberty usually brings a whole new set of emotions.
For example, they’ll start to get crushes and romantic feelings, which is natural and a massive part of growing up.
When it comes to boys, he may try to be independent and control his own life. The testosterone surges tend to blunt any fear which make him more susceptible to dangerous behaviour that can result from anger. Teenage girls get angry too, but they are better at processing emotions.
Parent survival guide
What can you do as a parent to help your adolescent child get through these difficult hormonal times?
1. REMAIN CALM
‘Teenagers can be largely emotional, rather than logical, because of the hormones rampaging through their bodies,’ explains Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist who works with families. ‘It is not necessarily pleasant, and it can even feel frightening. Although it might be hard for you, she needs you to maintain a calm and consistent presence.’
2. LEAD BY EXAMPLE
‘If she sees you smoking, drinking or taking drugs, she will see that as a green light to do the same. And she won’t listen if you tell her not to do it,’ says Linda.
3. ENCOURAGE YOUR TEEN TO TALK
‘If you’re having trouble getting them to open up to you, be available as much as possible. Take every opportunity to be there for her at times when she feels comfortable talking freely,’ explains Linda.
4. ALLOW THEM TO VENT THEIR ANGER
‘Physical exercise is probably the best way to do this – running, football, the gym, whatever it takes,’ says Nicola Morgan, professional speaker and author of Blame My Brain.
5. LET HER TAKE RISKS
‘Risk taking is really important, for lots of reasons,’ says Nicola. ‘And, if you try to stop this, you risk two things: a) that your teenager will turn to more dangerous risks (drugs and alcohol, for example) and b) that she won’t have been able to test herself and satisfy her ambitions.’
6. TRY NOT TO NAG
‘Teenagers don’t like to be patronised and that’s sometimes what concern feels like,’ says Nicola. ‘Teenagers can’t understand parents, but parents can (usually) understand teenagers – which can be quite irritating for teenagers. ‘So, there’s a conflict a lot of the time, as you have adults sparring with nearly adults,’ she adds.
7. SET BOUNDARIES TOGETHER
‘She’s trying to demonstrate independence, without necessarily being given that responsibility,’ says Nicola. ‘Adolescence is about moving away from parental control and protection. So, when parents worry, it can be annoying for a teen who’s trying to work things out in her own way.’
8. OFFER HER ALONE TIME WITHOUT YOU
‘Another vent is talking, but sometimes the angry person doesn’t want to talk to the person who most wants to help her,’ says Nicola. ‘Perhaps there is someone else she talks to? Let that happen and don’t be upset.’