Continued from last week Many kids announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in behavior around their parents. They’re starting to separate from Mom and Dad and to become more independent. At the same time, kids this age are increasingly aware of how others, especially their peers, see them and are desperately trying to fit in. Kids often start ‘trying on” different looks and identities, and they become acutely aware of how they differ from their peers, which can result in episodes of distress and conflict with parents. Butting Heads One of the common stereotypes of adolescence is the rebellious, wild teen continually at odds with Mom and Dad. Although it may be the case for some kids and this is a time of emotional ups and downs, that stereotype certainly is not representative of most teens. But the primary goal of the teen years is to achieve independence. For this to occur, teens will start pulling away from their parents ” especially the parent whom they’re the closest to. This can come across as teens always seeming to have different opinions than their parents or not wanting to be around their parents in the same way they used to. As teens mature, they start to think more abstractly and rationally. They’re forming their moral code. And parents of teens may find that kids who previously had been willing to conform to please them will suddenly begin asserting themselves ” and their opinions ” strongly and rebelling against parental control. You may need to look closely at how much room you give your teen to be an individual and ask yourself questions such as: “Am I a controlling parent?,” “Do I listen to my child?,” and “Do I allow my child’s opinions and tastes to differ from my own?” Tips for Parenting During the Teen Years Looking for a roadmap to find your way through these years? Here are some tips: Educate Yourself Read books about teenagers. Think back on your own teen years. Remember your struggles with acne or your embarrassment at developing early ” or late. Expect some mood changes in your typically sunny child, and be prepared for more conflict as he or she matures as an individual. Parents who know what’s coming can cope with it better. And the more you know, the better you can prepare. Talk to Your Child Early Enough Talking about menstruation or wet dreams after they’ve already started means you’re too late. Answer the early questions kids have about bodies, such as the differences between boys and girls and where babies come from. But don’t overload them with information ” just answer their questions. You know your kids. You can hear when your child’s starting to tell jokes about sex or when attention to personal appearance is increasing. This is a good time to jump in with your own questions such as: “_ Are you noticing any changes in your body? “_ Are you having any strange feelings? “_ Are you sad sometimes and don’t know why? A yearly physical exam is a great time to bring up these things. A doctor can tell your preadolescent ” and you ” what to expect in the next few years. An exam can serve as a jumping-off point for a good parent/child discussion. The later you wait to have this discussion, the more likely your child will be to form misconceptions or become embarrassed about or afraid of physical and emotional changes.
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