Well, it happened. My little girl went to bed one night and awoke a miserable, angry banshee who cries at least five times a day. My busy little beaver is suddenly lazier than a sloth. My charming, mild-mannered little dear is a smart-mouthed troll with the temperament of a toadstool. One moment she’s flyin high and only a moment later, she’s crashed and burned. Is she sick? Is her brain malfunctioning? Nope. She’s going on twelve.
Puberty. Hormones. The pituitary gland has a lot to answer for. It sneaks up on parents, steals away precious infants and drops a snarling, feisty tornado of tears in its place. The poor parents are left shell-shocked in the wake of the storm. And the most unbelievable part is that if this horrible morphing process didn’t occur, the child would not be healthy.
What can you do with this child cum ogre? Well, primarily it’s a matter of what not to do:
-Don’t panic. Typically, the angrier the kid, the faster he’ll get through the process.
-Don’t take it personally. Your child will accuse you of all sorts of atrocities one moment and be sobbing in your arms the next. It feels sometimes that you are her worst enemy, when only yesterday you were best buddies. You haven’t changed, but she is. But if you give her love, time and support, she will come back.
-Don’t make this about you. Don’t say foolish things like, ‘I don’t need this right now.’ You may feel like you are on your last nerve, but remember, so is she only she’s coping with a rush of brand-new hormones and you aren’t.
-Don’t get involved in arguments with a tween or teen. They could out-argue Clarence Darrow.
-Don’t patronize. Your teen is hyper-sensitive right now and most anything you do or say will sound to her like patronizing or yelling. Don’t bite. Again, you haven’t changed, she has. Give her time and space to grow into her new hormones.
-Do be extra warm and loving. They may be pushing you away with one arm but they’re pulling you toward them even harder with the other hand. She needs lots of reassurance and affection. Behind that loud, smart mouth is a scared little girl or boy.
-Do let her sleep as much as she needs to, whenever possible. Teenagers often become night owls for a few years. That’s why most teachers object to beginning middle school at 7:30 in the morning. Your teen is growing proximodistal, from the inside out that is. Her body may ache as it grows and develops. I had terrible leg cramps. Some kids experience Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease, which is basically just growing pains, but very uncomfortable. Her mood swings wear her out.
-Do make sure that she gets extra good nutrition. Her brain is working overtime and she needs plenty of brain fuel and calories for growth and development.
-Do remember that she has very little control over these new experiences. She is looking to you to be a good role model. If you slip and get angry, apologize and hug her.
And don’t forget to take good care of yourself especially during this time. You need extra strength for the road ahead too. One day at a time.