The emotional side of puberty

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Pre-teen boy talks to his mum
Probably the most worrying thing for your child during puberty is the emotional changes they experience, rather than the physical changes to their bodies. Hormones are racing through them and they start to feel more moody, self-conscious and even aggressive.

Trying to talk to them can seem difficult - you don't want to embarrass them and make them withdraw, but with the right approach you can really help them.

Sue Atkins is a parent coach and the author of Raising Happy Children for Dummies, creator of and the parent and teenager toolkit. Here, Sue gives her advice on giving emotional support to your child during puberty:

Continued below...

When to start talking about puberty

  • 'Start when it feels natural - lots of parents feel shy talking about puberty. Take the lead from your kids - if they ask you a question then answer it appropriately to their age and maturity. Then they don't grow up frightened or embarrassed because it's more natural.

Mood swings

  • 'During puberty, kids are maturing mentally and becoming more free thinking. They don't necessarily understand their mood swings. You can talk to them about it and tell them that it's normal, but have boundaries so they know they can't just throw a strop and make everyone's life hell.'
  • 'Try to be understanding if your child is throwing a strop. A simple technique is when you're away from them, write their name down on a piece of paper and stand on it. Then put yourself in your child's shoes and finish these sentences: 'I think...', 'I see....', 'I feel...'. I use this technique in my workshops a lot, it's a very simple but very useful way of getting an insight. You might find that they feel they're not being listened to or they're not being allowed to be independent.
  • 'Be more observant of your own behaviour and your child's behaviour and try to be objective so you can adapt and be more flexible.
  • 'Give your son or daughter choices so they feel like they have control, for example say: 'You can go out till 10pm and I can pick you up, or you can get a taxi home - but you're coming home at 10pm' - teenagers want to feel that they're being respected as adults.'

Talking about embarrassing issues

  • 'It's down to you how you talk to them about things - your kids will take their cues from you. If you find it stressful to talk about embarrassing things then they will too.
  • 'Don't pretend it's not happening - the days when nobody talks about puberty and sex are over. Kids are clued in now, they know the facts on puberty from school - you can put the emotional part in and pass on your values about sex and relationships.
  • 'Don't feel you have to pick a time to have a talk about the birds and the bees - let them bring things up and be natural and compassionate.
  • 'If your son or daughter doesn't want to talk to you, maybe there's another friend or relative they can talk to.'

How puberty makes you feel

  • 'If you think puberty will be difficult and your child will turn into Kevin and Perry, it will. They'll take their lead from you and your attitude.
  • 'It's going to be a change and you'll need to be more flexible, but life is all about transition and change. Keep an open mind and try to build bridges.'

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