Doors slamming, angry outbursts, intensely deep conversations about friendships and the future, discussions about face-washing, showering, and deodorant… puberty kind of sneaks up on a parent. I mean, they were just going through the terrible twos yesterday – weren’t they?
I was talking to my friend Anna recently about life, marriage, kids, parenting, homeschooling, and so much more. She and I go way back – to 8th grade as a matter of fact. The same grade both of our homeschooled gifted boys are in this year – hers in California, mine in Ohio.
Three thousand miles separate us, but our stories are so similar. The years fly by, seemingly in a blink, even as some of those days that make up those years drag on…endlessly.
Maybe that’s the hardest thing to remember during this time of adolescence… that childhood will be over in a blink. Are you tired, like I am, mama of a gifted kiddo in the midst of puberty?
Listen, I get it. I’m right there with you. With two of them, in fact. We’re in a teeny house, with fewer places to escape one another when frustrations run high, and we’re with each other most of the time. It can get a little, um, intense around here.
I often think that, while all parents have some struggles with their kids during puberty, that parents of gifted and twice-exceptional kiddos have it just a tiny bit tougher. And sometimes not just a tiny bit…
When kids are already challenging because of overexcitabilities, sensory issues, perfectionism, anxiety, or other things that often go along with being gifted, puberty hormones coursing through their bodies just catapult them into another stratosphere. And it’s really hard for a mama to get through the day.
So what can we do about it, bringing peace – and sanity – to our family life?
Cut Yourself a Break, Mama
And I’m talking to myself here, too. Friend, this gifted parenting gig is not for the weak, and it’s also not for those for whom perfection is an issue. Kids aren’t perfect, and neither are us mamas.
And it’s time to be okay with that.
When you’ve got a kiddo whose emotions are all over the place, it’s easy to feel discouraged every time he or she blows up at you. But, guess what? It’s really not personal and it’s not an indication of what the future holds. And I admit that I worry about that often… If he’s talking to me like this now, how will he treat me when he’s grown?
While I certainly can’t go into the future and see what it holds, I think our relationship then is going to depend a lot more on my reactions to his outbursts than what he says.
So, on the days it gets rough, cut yourself a break, and know that it’s actually normal. Walk away for a few minutes to help diffuse the situation and then go back and talk to him.
Talk to Your Kids
It’s crucial, though, that you do go back and talk to them. Having conversations both about their behaviors – bad AND good – and telling them how their choices and actions make you feel helps them develop empathy.
I tell my kids all the time that I’ll know when they’re mature because they’ll be empathetic. They’ll put others and their feelings above their own need for immediate gratification. That’s maturity.
Talking to your kids is important throughout their lives, but it’s so critical during the tween and teen ages. You really want them to know that they can come to you about anything. That trust is the single biggest thing that will lead to a strong relationship down the road.
Young tweens and teens need to feel connections, bounce ideas off others, and get feedback when they’re trying to make tough choices. If they can’t come to you for that, they’ll find someone else.
I was so lucky to have found my buddy Anna to connect with when I was in middle and high school. She and I both had parents who didn’t talk to us about a lot of the things we were going through, but we were both pretty good kids, and worked hard to give each other wise counsel. It could have turned out much differently for each of us. We could have found others to influence our perceptions of what was right and wrong.
Be that wise counsel to your kids. Help them see that you’re there for them and can talk them through the changes they have going on – physical and emotional.
Give Them the Resources They Need
There are bunches of great books out there for this time in your kids’ lives. We are particularly loving The Care and Keeping of You 1: the Body Book for Younger Girls. It’s perfect for the beginning stages of puberty and there’s a second book for when your daughter gets a little bigger. My daughter is enjoying The Feelings Book: The Care and Keeping of Your Emotions, too, along with the journal companion to the body book.
I love that the books encourage the reader to ask lots of questions of their parents. Conversations are so important.
For boys, we’ve enjoyed The Boys Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up You and The Body Book for Boys. My son isn’t like my daughter and me, though. While we prefer to read about everything that we want to learn about, he wants to talk things through. Which has led to some really late nights for this mama lately. Which is exactly the way I want it to be.
If your kiddo is more like my son than my daughter, be his (or her) resource. Help him know that he can come to you with any question that he has.
Build Strong Family Connections
I think it’s really important – especially as your kids enter adolescence – to strengthen family ties and know the influences your kids are exposed to. You can’t protect your kids from every negative experience or person, but you can do a lot to protect their hearts while you have them home.
One of the best ways I know how to do this is to make the family a team. Build family traditions. Years ago, I had the idea to make a family dinner ever Sunday night and have the grandparents and any aunts and uncles that were free come over. It didn’t work out… the extended family didn’t share my vision, but that’s okay. I did it anyway, and we still have a nicer dinner together on Sunday nights and play some board games together or watch a movie as a family.
As the kids get older, I hope they’ll bring their boyfriends and girlfriends to Sunday dinner, and eventually their own families. Traditions are bonding. And when families bond, there is trust and shared stories. With shared stories, there’s connection.
I’m not going to pretend that walking through adolescence and puberty with your gifted kids is going to be a piece of cake, but if you give yourself a break, don’t take things personally, be there for them, open up conversations, provide resources, and build super strong family connections, you’ll all make it out alive. You’ll probably be stronger for it, too.
Are your kids starting to go through puberty? How are they handling it? How are YOU handling it? Got any other tips to share? Let me know.