These pictures were placed in a frame and given to my son by his daughter, my granddaughter, for Christmas.
In the picture on the left, my granddaughter is 2 years old and barely able to reach her dad’s hand. In the picture on the right, she is 12 years old and more equally shares a hug as they walk along together.
When my son received this thoughtful gift, tears filled his eyes. His baby girl is growing up and although he is so proud of her, there is a bit of sadness that she has become a young woman. He doesn’t know where the time went.
I am certain many can identify with my son’s realization about his daughter. It seems like overnight our children mature into young adults. I talk to so many parents throughout the year and the consistent response of most parents is that they can hardly believe their child is growing up and beginning to separate a little from them.
Most kids enter the early stage of puberty by the time they are about 8 years old. This early stage lasts for a couple of years, about the amount of time a parent needs to adjust to the changes that are to come. You as the parent need time to process what is happening and become aware that your child is beginning to mature into a young adult.
Puberty introduces some new challenges to the parent-child relationship.
The child’s brain and body are changing very rapidly, and I want to encourage you to change with them. The most important message I can send to you is to grow with your child and learn how to guide and support them in a new way.
These are my favorite suggestions for helping this happen smoothly:
Treat them the way that you would like to be treated. When they are reacting to you and wanting to pull away, give them a little room. They need to test their own convictions and learn how to express those convictions in a more mature way. You don’t have to react to everything they say. Just think about how it feels when you are wrestling through strong emotions and are uncertain about how you feel. Often, you just need time to land on your feet.
Teach them about boundaries, including your own. Help them understand how you feel when they are disrespectful and question your motivation. Let them into your life a little more so they can recognize that you are not just a parent, but you are also a person with feelings that can be easily hurt.
To have a dialogue with your adolescent really means listening more than talking. At this time in their life, they are developing their own ideas and not wanting to simply follow your plan for them. Try not to react. Just listen and learn. They will go through many changes of mind and they need you to be a great sounding board and not a problem solver. You know how it feels when you have a great idea and someone you care about immediately shuts it down. It might not have been a great idea, but it is very hurtful not to be heard and appreciated for what you think.
Puberty is not a transition time for only your child.
It is also a time when you and your child learn how to develop a more adult relationship with one another.
Fortunately, this transition takes place over several years. This is a precious time for both of you. Don’t let denial about the fact that they are becoming a young adult steal it away. My son and his daughter have a beautiful father-daughter relationship, but this Christmas gift seems to be more than a subtle suggestion that someone is not a child anymore!
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