“You’ve got hair growing where?” and
other things not to say to your teenager
Aaah, the teenage years. We all remember them, though some may remember them more fondly than others. Although there are many things about being a teenager that are fun and exciting, there are also many things that are uncomfortable, scary, and downright unpleasant, starting with all those changes to the body.
For most tweens, that awful puberty video in elementary or middle school is the only warning they get before hair starts sprouting in new places, or body parts start acting like they have a mind of their own. Sure, they could talk about the changes they see with a parent or their pediatrician, but they won’t. For one thing, they’re confused about what’s normal and what’s not, and if they’re not normal, they certainly don’t want anyone to discover that!
For another, they’re embarrassed by the changes. Be honest. If one day you woke up with a “middle-age” rash on your armpits or a big “menopausal” lump on your butt, you wouldn’t exactly be rushing to show it off to people… even your doctor… especially if your mother or father was in the room. See? Some of you are cringing right now. THAT’S how teenagers feel. You can try to reassure them “it’s normal” but they know what “normal” feels like; they’ve been feeling “normal” all their life, and one thing is for certain – this ain’t it.
So what is a parent to do? Start by letting them know they can always come to you with questions, but don’t be surprised when they don’t. Your teenager, like most teenagers, probably doesn’t want to talk to you. They probably don’t even want you to look at them. For many, any amount of attention embarrasses them. If you have the rare child who wants to have a heart to heart about menstrual cycles, just be cool and answer those questions as best you can (and seek help from a reference source together if there are questions you don’t know the answers to). But if that isn’t your child, have a heart, be as nonchalant as possible about the bodily changes, and get them a book or an app or point out an appropriate website where they can find out all the answers to the questions about puberty that they are too embarrassed to ask.
Most of all, accept that insecurities, embarrassment, and mood swings are all part of this fun little adventure. Don’t take it personally. Someday, your son will want to talk with you again, and when he does, you’ll notice that his voice is a lot deeper. Don’t mention it. You’ll just embarrass him.