When it comes to our teenage children, having a conversation with them about what is going on with their bodies and inside their minds is always hard.
However, it just may have become a little less difficult.
In a recent Quora post, somebody asked for advice on how to make a person understand that the way puberty is making them act is affecting the people around him. A responder named Jo Eberhardt replied to this question and left everyone surprised. She shares that while she has two kids, the puberty phase has not been a walk in the part for her too. Puberty is unavoidable, so helping our children deal with it is key for their proper development.
Eberhardt wrote the following:
“We need to have a chat,” I said. I’d specifically waited until we were in the car, driving somewhere. That meant that we had half an hour that we’d be in a confined space together with no interruptions and — most importantly — due to the constraints of driving, we wouldn’t be able to look directly at each other, making it easier to avoid accidental confrontation and to encourage vulnerability.
“Okay,” my son said. He sounded dubious like he was expecting to get into trouble for something.
“We’ve talked a lot about puberty over the last couple of years, haven’t we? I just wanted to check in and find out if you’ve got any new questions.”
“No,” he said. But not in as surly a tone as I’d grown used to hearing.
“Okay. Well, let me know if you do. But I was thinking about things over the last few days, and I know I’ve been pulling you up a lot more on your tone of voice and the way you’ve been speaking to people. Yeah?”
“Yeah…” He was confused now. He didn’t know where this was going.
“Well, it occurred to me that I really messed up.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” I said with a deep breath. “I’ve spent all this time talking to you about the way puberty changes your body, and what to expect as you go through the changes, but I completely forgot to talk to you about what’s going on in your brain right now. Puberty is the time when your brain grows and changes more than at any other time in your life — well, except for when you’re a baby, perhaps. So I really let you down by not preparing you for that. I’m so sorry.”
My son reached out a hand and gently touched my arm. “I accept your apology, but it’s okay. We can just talk about it now.”
“Is that okay?” I asked.
He nodded, and then asked, “Why is my brain changing?”
“Ah,” I said. “That’s the amazing thing. Did you know that your brain grew and developed so quickly when you were little that by the time you were about five or six, your brain was almost as big and powerful as an adult’s brain?”
“No,” he said in wonder.
“Well, it’s true. But here’s the thing. Even though your brain was super powerful, the instructions were for a child’s brain. And all the information about building an adult’s brain was a bit… let’s say fuzzy. So your brain did the best it could, but it didn’t really know what kind of person you were going to be back then, or what shape brain you were going to need.”
I paused to give him a minute to ask questions, but he waited for me to continue. “Now we come to puberty. See, puberty is amazing. Not only is your body being transformed from a child’s body to an adult’s body, your brain has to be completely rewritten from a child’s brain to an adult’s brain.”
“That sounds hard.”
“Yeah, it is,” I said. “That’s why I wish I’d warned you first. See, it takes a lot of energy to completely rewrite a brain. That’s one of the reasons you get tired quicker at the moment — and that, of course, manifests in you being crankier and less patient than normal.”
I paused again, but he didn’t say anything, so I added, “That must be really frustrating for you.”
He looked over at me and wiped his hands over his eyes. “It is. Sometimes I just feel really angry and I don’t know why.”
I nodded. “The other thing is that one of the first parts of your brain that gets super-sized to be like an adult is the amygdala. That’s the part that controls your emotions and your survival instincts. You know how we’ve talked about fight/flight/freeze before, and how sometimes our brains think that being asked to speak in public is the same level of threat as being attacked by a saber tooth tiger?”
He laughed. “Yes. So you have to tell your brain that there’s no saber tooth tiger to help you calm down.”
“That’s right. Well, that’s what the amygdala looks after saber tooth tiger warnings and big emotions. So, the thing with puberty is that all of a sudden you’ve got an adult-sized amygdala hitting all your emotion buttons and your saber-tooth tiger buttons. That must be really hard for you to manage.”
He nodded, serious again. “Sometimes I don’t know why I say the things I do. They just come out, and then I feel bad.”
“I know, Sweetheart. Well, do you want to know one of the reasons why that might be?”
Such conversations aren’t easy to have. They are, however, crucially important. The inner peace you provide your children with can help them stay positive throughout all the changes their body and mind are going through. Puberty brings forward insecurities and can leave a person struggling if they feel they have nobody to rely on.
Now is the time to bring it up, if you haven’t already done so.
Children have tons of questions concerning these things as they notice everything. Hence, giving them a chance to understand these things is crucial for their development.
What are your thoughts on the conversation above and what would you change (if anything) when speaking to your own child? Let us know in the comment section.