Do you remember your puberty years? It’s a time when the body went through significant and confusing changes. Now that you’re the parent of a kid who might be experiencing these changes, you’ll want to help prepare your child for this critical stage of life.
Now, it may be a confusing and awkward phase, but you need to let your child understand what is happening to him or her at this point in their life. An Orlando primary care physician expert shares the steps and tips that can help you guide your child once he or she hits puberty.
1. Start The Conversation Early
A series of relaxed and open conversations before the onset of physical changes brought by puberty can help your child feel okay when they start noticing changes in their body.
For this, you can use a 3-step convo about puberty:
- Ask what your child knows. Do they talk about physical changes and puberty at school? Listen to their ideas or what they think puberty is all about.
- Give your kid the facts while correcting any misinformation they might have picked up.
- Use this convo as a chance to talk about values. For instance, you can tell your kid that if they have a wet dream, they don’t have to feel ashamed about it. Also, tell them what to do in this situation, make them know that it’s fine to just strip the bed and take it to the laundry.
Take note that such difficult conversations should only be initiated when your kid is ready to listen and talk. During puberty, most kids might want more time and privacy for themselves. It’s about picking the right moments when your kid seems to open to listening and talking.
In addition, some kids might not want to share everything with their parents anymore. So, try not to force them to communicate with you. Alternatively, your kid might feel more comfortable talking with an expert like the school counselor. In such a case, you must respect their wishes and let them be.
2. Prepare Healthy Food Choices
During puberty, your kid will be coping with several physical changes. Due to these physical changes, teenagers will have greater nutrient needs compared to younger children and adults. The right food can help fuel these physical changes.
Also, kids in the puberty stage will likely have an increased appetite. This means that they may tend to overeat or consume high-fat and high-sugar food which can lead to adolescent obesity or overweight. Extreme diets and eating disorders can also be an issue during this time.
So, in order to encourage healthy eating that meets your kid’s nutritional needs, you need to:
- Encourage healthy choices when you’re out.
- Prepare and provide healthy drinks and foods at home.
- Help your child choose healthy recipes that you can make at home.
In addition, you need to increase some key nutrients that your child must be getting. The two most needed nutrients for teenagers are:
During puberty, teens need more iron due to their growing muscle mass and expanding blood volumes. Girls, in particular, will need extra iron because they’ll be starting to have their menstrual period at this stage.
One of the richest sources of iron is red meat. You can also include poultry and seafood in their diet.
Getting enough calcium is critical, as it helps your kid reach peak bone density and build stronger bones for life. It is suggested that teens and children between the ages of nine to 18 will need three to four glasses of milk to get sufficient amounts of calcium in the body.
3. Encourage Physical Activity
For good mental and physical health, your kid needs at least an hour of vigorous to moderate physical activities daily.
Physical activity can help kids maintain a healthy weight. Obese teenagers and children are likely to stay obese as an adult. They will have a higher risk of other chronic physical illnesses, mental and emotional issues, and subject to bullying. Hence, encouraging your children to exercise and enjoy physical activities will help them remain healthy.
You can keep your kid active by encouraging daily movements or keeping them involved in house chores as well as outdoor activities. Also, you can have your kids join you in your workout routine if you have one. If they are interested in sports or martial arts, then make sure to enroll them in the appropriate classes as well.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to encourage activity is to limit their use of electronic devices. Set up rules on the usage of electronic devices. You can either have them turn off their devices, take away their gadgets, or cut their connection to the Internet at specific times. Use this time to make them do physical activities, but make sure that you also have prepared some equipment or routine for them.
4. Maintain Healthy Sleep Routines
Like adults, teens need good-quality sleep. Aside from physical activities and healthy eating, getting enough sleep is crucial for staying healthy. You can help maintain your kid’s healthy sleeping routine by:
- Encourage “winding down” before bedtime. You can consider having no screen time for at least an hour before bedtime. Also, make sure they avoid taking caffeinated drinks or high-sugar foods a few hours before bedtime.
- Encourage your kid to stick to a regular bedtime hour.
- Create a comfortable, calming, and quiet sleeping environment for your kids to sleep in.
5. Take Care Of The Mind
The changes that occur during puberty can confuse teens. This is also a stage of self-discovery for them, and feelings of social pressure and the need to “fit in” can easily overwhelm your kids. But you can help them take care of their mind and manage emotions with the following tips:
Teach Them To Manage Stress
Stress is unavoidable. This is especially true for kids undergoing physical changes. Teach your kid how to manage stress—from meditation and exercises to taking a break, or making time for hobbies. You can also urge them, but not force them, to talk about their problems. Also, teach them to have a good balance between school and social life.
Maintain A Good Relationship
Your kid may tend to close themselves from you and others during this critical period. They only want alone time to explore and understand what’s happening to them. It is important to keep a safe distance, but not to the point that they feel you don’t care.
You can also help maintain a good relationship with them by having family bonding time, going outdoors, watching movies, or taking them on vacations. They don’t have to open up to you during these moments. The purpose of these activities is to just make your kids feel relaxed and happy with the family around them.
Take Note Of Signs For Mental Illness
By understanding and knowing the signs of mental or emotional problems, you can quickly tackle the problem and prevent it from worsening. Some of the common signs include:
- Loss of Confidence
- Weight Loss or Weight Gain
- Excessive Tiredness
- Loss of Interest
- Out of Character Personality Changes, i.e., being rebellious
- Loss of Appetite
- Mood Swings
Most of these signs are normal during puberty due to hormonal fluctuations. However, don’t just assume that negative feelings and thoughts are just part of their teenage years. If you’re worried about something, then don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Puberty is a time of huge changes for your kids. You can help your child cope with puberty by having meaningful and open conversations and giving them your support and reassurance. Also, guiding them towards healthy lifestyle choices can help them learn good habits and practice self-care.