Between the ages of 10 and 13 children start to become more aware of their bodies and how they are starting to change. They become more aware of their friendships and comments from others. If we as their parents are aware of this, we can help them to develop a healthy sense of themselves during this process. We can influence their perceptions of this change.
If we start developing their perceptions about themselves when they are younger, it makes the teenage years so much easier for them and ourselves. It is about forming a foundation of how they think and feel about themselves before they go through changes and during the process.
There are 3 aspects we can focus on
Developing a good self-image
This stage can be a time when they can feel a little uncomfortable about themselves, and that is okay. Our role as parents are not to try make them feel better but to rather reassure them i.e. they need our acceptance that they feel uncomfortable. When we reassure and ask them questions about their perceptions without any expectation, they feel safe to formulate their own perceptions. We can offer perceptions too – but without expectation of them agreeing with us. It is so tempting to try and influence their perceptions because we want them to feel good about themselves but the best gift you can give them is to give them the space to formulate their own.
- Yes I know it feels a little uncomfortable – that is okay
- Yes your body is going through changes and that is okay
- Yes your friends at school may be acting differently but it is going to be okay
- What makes it feel uncomfortable?
- Could it be that you are developing into a beautiful woman or strong man?
- What would that feel like? (to develop a perception of what they could gain, to draw association to something good from this)
- What do they think about the change? What makes them think that?
Managing their emotions
Their emotions they are feeling are indicators for them. They are more significant at this age because of the change they are going through. Teaching them how to use their emotions to guide them will help them through this transition. ALL “negative” emotions are their friends. Teaching them to listen to them is the answer. We do this by:
- Acceptance and acknowledging how they feel – even if it doesn’t seem logical to you (their need is to feel heard)
- Asking them what they need
- Asking them what they can do to get what they need
- Giving them the space to work out what their emotion is telling them on their own and encouraging them to take action.
- Being there for them in their trial and error without judgement
Handling and interpreting outside influence
The best way to handle outside influence is to develop a good internal frame of reference. In other words develop their perspective on their surroundings and themselves so this has a stronger influence than the outside. Friend’s opinions will start to influence them more than ours so if they have developed a strong sense of self and their opinion that will provide the foundation on which they can base their choices on. That is what will keep them safe.
We can develop this early.
- Ask them for their opinions often
- Ask them about how they see their friends, what do they like? What don’t they like?
- What do they think about situations around them? What do they think about family members?
The intent behind asking questions is not to get the “right” answer or perception, it is about training their brain to formulate their own opinions. When they are young their perceptions will lack perspective, it is up to us to give them opportunities to develop their perspective. We do this by having easy daily conversations without expectations or needing a result.
When we focus our conversations with our children having this longterm outcome in mind, we can be so much more intentional and we can set them up for a smooth journey in their teenage years!