HOW CAN PARENTS HELP ADOLESCENTS THROUGH PUBERTY?
Most parents, especially in Sub Saharan Africa, find it quite difficult to discuss puberty with their adolescents. This happens for various reasons including the reality that their parents told them little or nothing when they were teenagers, cultural beliefs that make discussing such topics uncomfortable and the fact that they might simply not know what to say.
This is a simple, easy to follow guide, for that parent who desires to help his/her child through this delicate stage but isn’t sure how to go about it:
1. Learn all you can about the physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty so you can be well informed.
2. Talk early and often. The earlier you open the communication lines, the easier it’ll be to keep those lines open all through the teenage years into adulthood.
3. Let your adolescent know that you went through puberty and it is an absolutely normal process. Reassure your child that nothing is wrong with him/her, some adolescents struggle with this especially early or late bloomers. Share your own experience with them. This will help break the ice and ease your nervousness.
4. Make a shopping list and go shopping with your adolescent, using the opportunity to teach him/her the necessary things to have during puberty. Things like sanitary pads, deodorants, training bras, shaving kits etc. Also teach them how and when to use these things.
5. Be a friend to your adolescent. Be sensitive to his/her emotional needs and help your adolescent through moodiness if it occurs. Speak encouraging words to your child to boost his/her self confidence. Create an open and friendly relationship that will make your adolescent feel free to discuss anything with you. Listen to your adolescent
6. Talk about sex. Explain the sexual implications of the changes occurring in your adolescent’s body and the consequences of sex before marriage, as well as the advantages of abstinence. Teach your child how to say No to sexual advances and what to do in such situations. Teach your adolescent how to avoid sexual predators and basic self defence.
7. Give your adolescent some level of independence. Allow them to make certain decisions on their own but with your oversight.
8. Respect your adolescent’s privacy but lay down appropriate rules. Monitor what they see and read especially on the Internet and Television. Teach them what is appropriate and what is not, telling them why. Teach them principles, don’t just lay down rules. This makes them able to make appropriate decisions in your absence.
9. Get your adolescent involved in after-school activities, holiday programs etc. that’ll keep him/her properly engaged and distracted from obsessing over the changes occurring in his/her life.
10. Be patient. Puberty is a process. Empathise with your adolescent and be patient with him/her through this process.