“I want to wear a bra. All the other girls are wearing one.” I stared into my daughter’s eyes, which reflected excitement to leave childhood behind. As we shopped for spaghetti-string paneled shirts and kids’ sports bras, we talked about the value of being seven and what significant milestones are around the corner.
By age ten, when breast buds were impossible to hide, she claimed she wanted to start a revolution and burn every bra she possessed. How could I resist? “Sorry sweetheart, that’s already happened; you’re 60 years too late!”
All I asked was, “How was your day?” With hands hiding her tears, she screamed, “I don’t know what to do with my feelings. First, I’m angry, then sad. And then, I’ll laugh at something stupid. I feel I’m on a roller coaster ride. And, today, when my emotions slammed against me, I did the worst possible thing imaginable; I cried in front of everyone!”
Of course, she didn’t believe me, but crying is the most normal, productive response. As a parent, it’s easy to remember being her age, feeling like no one understands while you are questioning your body and mind. As stomps grow louder going up the stairs or a door is slammed, she’s pleading rudely for attention. Her greatest desire isn’t to be left alone or engage in an argument; prepubescent and pubescent sons and daughters need the comfort of a parent’s voice. Self-confidence will fluctuate in their minds, caused by worrying about the viewpoints of friends and social standing. At that time, self-worth will change with every complexion outbreak, pound gained, and growth spurt. Testing your listening skills, ‘tweens and ‘teens will question their sanity and whether they are enough.
It’s important not to tie every subject into one “big talk,” but engage in conversation daily. ‘Tweens and ‘teens need a role model they can go to who is available and will listen.
The Difficult Question—When?
Women with daughters talk to each other, especially if their girls are close to the same age. We whisper phrases like, “Has she started her period yet?” and “How’s the emotional roller coaster going?” Open communication helps parents who need advice or support. Some children show the signs of puberty in late elementary school by the appearance of “breast buds” or “testicular enlargement.” Noticeable hormonal changes will appear through physical developments, such as the increase of body hair, fat mass, and more mature muscle tone.
Whoever uttered the words “appearances don’t count” has never experienced living with a prepubescent child. Suddenly, adolescents may care about their complexion and clothing and argue against daily showers and wearing deodorant. By seventh grade, boys and girls exhibit emotional and social changes. For example, teens will pull away from their parents, showing less affection for them and more interest in their peer group.
Additional changes: Teens
- have difficulty maintaining high expectations and feeling confident;
- are distressed by the added social demands of middle school;
- are constantly trying to control the emotions of sadness and depression.
Sixth Grade Opens Adult Conversations
Less than two months into sixth grade, my daughter said, “I need to ask you a few questions.” From October through May, we covered fellatio, masturbation, defining a female, why she is a girl, secret crushes, mapping the characteristics of friendship, and peer kissing, vaping, and drug use. As puberty continues to unfold, she continually asks two questions: “Is this normal?” and “Am I enough?” Reassurance is offered through honest responses; perhaps, it’s the reason why she still reaches for my hand and initiates conversations.
Many ‘tweens and ‘teens feel alone with their overwhelming problems. Parents can be honest and answer questions to dispel all girl and boy myths around the topic. When sons and daughters do not want to talk, share time by going for a walk or making dinner together. Sometimes, being together is an easy solution!