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Helping your pre-teen through puberty

Pre-teen boy

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It probably seems like yesterday that your little bundle of joy was happily gurgling away in their highchair and everything seemed so simple but now you have a pre-teen in the house and suddenly the dynamics are changing…

The notion of your baby turning into an adult is certainly a daunting one so being prepared is a good idea. We have all been through it ourselves so casting our minds back will help but this is the first time you’ll have gone through it from a parents perspective.

What to expect in your pre-teen

You’ll start to see physical, emotional and social changes and these will vary between girls and boys.

It may feel scary to talk to your children about these changes but keeping an open line of communication means they know they can always come to you with any questions or problems. Things like this shouldn’t ever be taboo, its important your child knows this is just part of growing up.

Physical changes

For girls you might see physical changes anytime from 8-13 years old. The start of puberty includes breast development, changes in body shape, growth of body hair and the start of periods. For boys you might see changes anytime between 9-14 years old. These changes include growth of the penis and testes, a height growth spurt, changes in body shape, erections with ejaculation, growth of body hair and their voice will start to break and become deeper in tone.

Emotional changes

These physical changes can often contribute to the strong emotional changes your child will be experiencing. These changes can make them feel self-conscious and can affect their self-esteem. Your child may also compare themselves to friends or even celebrities which can affect how they feel about their appearance. It’s easy for us to tell them they’ll get taller soon or that their skin will clear up but we mustn’t forget how big these things felt to us at that age – it’s important not to dismiss their concerns but to offer support (and hope they take it!)

Your child’s mood may be unpredictable at times, going from upbeat one minute to down and withdrawn the next. This can inevitably lead to conflicts with you or with other members of the family. This is because your child is still learning how to behave as an adult and the addition of hormones to the mix will confuse matters further. Whatever you do, don’t take it personally. This phase will pass – the angry teen who stormed off earlier may breeze back into the room an hour later as though nothing has happened!

Part of growing up and dealing with emotions in a grown up way is understanding the consequences of our actions and the affect they have on other people. This explains why your darling child may say or do things that seem extreme but the likelihood is that they don’t realise how much their actions hurt other people’s feelings. And your child may imagine they are invincible at one time or another! This also relates to learning about consequences and (casting my own mind back!) will probably involve some rule breaking to see where the boundaries are or simply because they can. It can feel like a power struggle but try and keep your cool…

Relationships and social changes

The social side of growing up can be the most difficult and emotionally demanding of all these changes. I remember clearly how difficult it felt at times to find my way in the world and see which friendship group I fitted in with. It was hard to find my voice and to not be scared to have my own opinion for fear of losing friends or alienating myself from them.

At this stage your child’s friends will be influential for these very reasons. The desire to fit in (or not as the case may be) will start to shape their identity. Your values and your morals will always shape your child’s sense of right and wrong but now as they mature, they will start to question more things and form their own opinions.

You’ll also need to brace yourselves for the onset of romantic relationships in your child’s life. It doesn’t necessarily mean an intimate relationship but in terms of ‘the birds and the bees’, you will have to cross that bridge at some point…

Pre-teen girl

You should also bear in mind that the internet and social media has a big influence over how your child learns about the world and how they communicate. If you don’t have it already, think about what kind of filters you may want put in place on your internet connection in order to restrict access only to material you deem suitable.

It can be difficult to see your child spending more time with friends than with you, especially if it feels like most of the conversations you manage to have with your teenager end in conflict. This is all part of the quest for independence from you, it’s not intended to hurt your feelings. And if it’s any consolation, it’s the foundation of your values and morals that are most likely to shape long term decisions. At this point, friends are more likely to influence things like hair colour and taste in music!

Through all of this you may wonder what the affect could be on your relationship in the long run but it most likely won’t affect it at all. As a teenager our emotions are intense and contentious but this (thankfully) passes and doesn’t leave any lasting damage.

Speaking from experience, I was a horrid teenager (of course I see it now but didn’t then) and I have a great relationship with my parents now, despite all that! I hope when Max reaches this stage that we can offer him the same patience and understanding that I was given and we can look back and laugh at his teenage strops!



About Celyn Parry

About Celyn Parry

Celyn Parry has 12 years experience working with a leading children’s retailer but is now focusing on her passion for writing. With many years spent on the shop floor listening to parents, she prides herself on creating down to earth articles with a dash of humour and personal insight. As Step-Mum to adorable chatterbox Max, it’s a bit of a juggling act but it certainly keeps things interesting!

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