Things change quickly when boys begin turning into men. They look weird. Their voices change. They always smell one of two ways, sweat or an entire bottle of Axe cologne. They spend WAY too much time in the shower, and…the girls. It can be difficult, particularly for moms, to adjust to the physical changes as well as the emotional withdrawal that takes place during puberty. As a mom, our desire is to connect with our children emotionally. We want to be there for them. We would happily suffer through the awful smell and cracks in their voice if they would just, for a moment, let us IN. They don’t want to let you in, because it’s weird to talk to mom about anything. Frankly, it’s awkward for you too. You don’t know what to say or how to start and the old ways of communicating just don’t work anymore.
Here is the truth…it HAS changed. All of it changes, and it happens way too fast. This adjustment, although it feels tougher than all the other ones, is simply an adjustment. Just like when he started school or when he learned to use the potty. It all worked itself out then and it will now. You do, however, need some tools to get through this one. Luckily, there are some good tools that can make this time a bit easier to navigate through. If used correctly, you may even see a glimpse of that precious little one who wanted to share everything with his mommy first!
- Know that there are changes, BUT do not pretend to UNDERSTAND all of them: You have NO idea what it’s like to be a teenage boy. Not emotionally, not physically. Additionally, remember that HE has no idea what it’s like to be a teenage boy; he too has never been one! Rather than focusing on the physical changes, focus on how it must FEEL in his body. You don’t know what it must be like for a boy, but you do know what it feels like to be awkward, confused, and hormonal. This is an out-of-control feeling that nobody likes. It can lead to anger, outbursts, and frustration. Use these moments of anger to connect rather than respond emotionally. Take a step back, breathe, listen, and provide a reasonable consequence for the behavior.
- Set Boundaries: In therapy I often hear parents of teens become so overwhelmed with the emotional outbursts that they choose a hands-off approach. They don’t want to deal with the fluctuating emotions and behavior so they quit trying. NO, NO, NO! Boys in particular need structure. They need safety at a time when things can feel out of control. Don’t remove boundaries; adjust them so that they are age appropriate with clear
- Model Healthy Behavior: If you are not in control of your emotions or relationships, he will not know how to be in control of his emotions or relationships. If you know this is an area you struggle with, work on it. He will not learn how to treat a woman with respect if you are not setting that expectation for the men in your life. He needs you to SHOW him, much more than he needs you to TELL him.
- Accept & Embrace Dad’s Time to Shine: Let’s face it – this is a time in which boys need a father figure. They will need more time with Dad or uncle, or male pastor, ect. They need somebody who understands, yes more than you, how to be a man. Leave room for this. Encourage this. Help them find this if they don’t already have it.
- Give them Responsibilities: Teenage boys are busy. With increasing school loads, after school activities, and friends there is not a lot of room left for chores. Some parents worry that giving them responsibilities is adding to an already heavy load and so they remove the burden. Remember that teenage boys need a sense of control in a chaotic time. Rather than removing chores all together, change them. Have them create and cook dinner once a week. Give them three options for a weekend chore that allows for an added sense of control such as:
1) Not just re-mulching the yard but going to the store to buy mulch and telling him he will need to figure out the best option for the yard on his own.
2) Have him pick a person to assist with a task, chore or errand in some way once a month. This can be a neighbor, teacher, friend, ect.
3) Take a sibling to a book store monthly, buy a book, and read it to them once a week.
- Balance: It might be time to LET GO a bit mama. I know, it’s hard but they need some space. You want to set boundaries, give responsibilities, and GRACE. The hardest part can be trying to hold on to the developmental stage that they were in before. If you let go a bit and embrace the time rather than fight it – you will see that underneath the smell, through the hormones, and around the corner from the girls is the MAN you worked so hard to raise. You did well, Mom. Let him show you!