You’ve been through it yourself, but how well do you remember it? The ‘tween’ or pre-teen years, preceding puberty and the teenage years, can be vastly different for each boy — even within the same family. And it isn’t just about navigating the physical changes, but the social and emotional hurdles that come with them. So how do you support your son through preadolescence?
According to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, your son may experience puberty earlier or later than you did, so take some time to refresh your memory by arming yourself with information on what changes to expect.
Here are some tips on how to support your son through preadolescence:
It’s a time of great change for your son. Puberty begins when changes in your son’s brain cause sex hormones to be released.
The changes typically start around the ages of 11 to 13, though some boys start as young as nine or as late as 14. This is all within the typical range, so reassuring him that these physical changes are normal will support his development towards adulthood. If your son is early or late topuberty, he may need extra support and compassion. Try putting yourself in his shoes and assure him that these changes will pass.
With so many changes going on in his body, it’s only natural that he will want some space. Closed doors, spending longer in the bathroom or more time getting ready are all to be expected. If you do have any concerns about your son’s development, consider seeing a health professional.
While he will want you to respect his privacy, he still needs to know that you are available. This could be to talk about the body changes he is experiencing, his emotions, relationships, sexuality concerns, or his developing identity. Be open with your son.
Ideally, the best time to talk about puberty and body changes is before they start happening. Give him your complete attention and try to pick a time free from distractions. Don’t worry if your son doesn’t feel comfortable discussing some of these issues with you, suggest other people he might feel more comfortable talking to, such as a significant male in his life, a doctor or counsellor.
Give him space
Preadolescence is a time of social and emotional change. It’s a time when your son will be thinking about who he is and where he fits in.
In finding his own identity, he may want to express himself differently, such as dressing in a certain way, listening to different music or through taking risks. As long as he’s not taking unhealthy risks, supporting him through new experiences and allowing him some independence or greater responsibility can be helpful while he is becoming more of an individual and less reliant on you.
Remember that it’s a time where wanting independence and needing your support can be a fine line. Give him the space he needs, but be available to help him problem solve if needed.
It’s not only a time of change for your son but also for you as a parent. Talk often to others, such as your partner, friends or professionals, as your reassurance, availability and support are sure to have a positive impact on his experience.
Support during preadolescence is essential to boys’ health and wellbeing. At Christ Church Grammar School, boys can learn how to apply strategies for healthy living through The Wynne Centre for Boys’ Health and Wellbeing. If you are interested in gaining further insight on boys’ health and wellbeing or other helpful tips on raising boys, subscribe to our enewsletter.