From Boys to Men

Here’s how to cope, as your baby boy transitions into a testy, tricky teen:

 

Pesky white pimple, check. Bogus body odor, check. Challenging child who talks back, a lot, check. We bet you’re wishing for the terrible twos again, which were relatively simple. But the transition from kid to capable young adult isn’t necessarily tricky, trying or even challenging. Rather, puberty can be rewarding, peaceful and even—breathe—beautiful. Here are three rules to make the transition easier for everyone.

Learn the Language
By definition, puberty is a time of accelerated physical, hormonal and psycho-social/emotional growth. The process usually begins around age 12 (but can start earlier or later) and can last a few years. So, what can you do before the onset?

According to Northbrook pediatrician Dr. Jonathan Necheles, parents should talk with their child about the changes that are soon to take place. “Try to have conversations that focus on how normal these changes are,” he says. “Explain, over and over, that these changes, both physical and emotional, are expected and represent a healthy transition into adulthood.”

Although your son may resist talking about the changes and may even pretend not to listen (ignoring is a very common response), chances are high that he is actually absorbing the information. One great tip: work within his comfort zone, in terms of where, when and how you talk. Maybe he loves playing soccer? Kick around the ball, while you dish. Or, if the Wii is more his thing, invite him to join you for a game—chatting as you play.

Mother, Don’t Smother
As awkward, uncomfortable and even embarrassing as you remember puberty being, it’s doubly difficult and traumatic for your son. Top that with his overwhelming desire to keep you out of the loop, and we bet that your once-doting kid is now hiding in his room more than in your kitchen (or on your lap).

What you can do?

According to Beth Pastron, a mom in Highland Park, giving a bit of space to your pubescent son is helpful. “Find the right time for him to talk. After school is never a good time in our house, because my son is tired and burned-out,” she says. “But if I give him time to unwind and get settled back into the groove of being home, we can usually find a comfortable space and time to talk about what’s on his mind.”

And, don’t push him. If he doesn’t feel like talking when you feel ready to, give him the respect of waiting. Asking him to talk to you will only bother or bug him.

Chit-Chat, Now Trust
You’ve said your piece. Now it’s time to let him run this show. You can still lead the way, but allow him to guide you (or at least think that he is).

Don’t forget to acknowledge when he does something right or achieves one of his goals. Winnetka mom, Lauri Maney, who has three children including a 14 year-old, Andrew, says, “I think it’s just as important to recognize your son for all the good choices he makes … being polite, being nice to his little brother, being responsible.”

These little things are easy to acknowledge and it sure beats yelling about all the things that go wrong. And even if (and when) things do go wrong, staying in the loop can keep you close without feeling like you’re trying to control or punish him.

“My husband and I offer to drive as much as possible, have people into our home and just be around and available,” Pastron says.

Good advice as you watch your once little guy grow into a great man.