At the time of writing this post, my elder son, Abhimanyu was 11 and half years old. He is on the brink of puberty and bubbling with lots of questions. My husband and I were fully aware that he is growing up fast, very fast. We noticed every little change that his body and moods are going through.
Through the years, he has grown to become an individual with strong opinions. He doesn’t hesitate to express his views and at times is vehement while putting across his views.
At times my pre-teen behaves like the most intelligent and understanding child and at other times, his mood swings can be a pain to handle.
So how are we investing our time to prepare him for puberty? Here are a few things that we are following. It is working for us and we do hope that it will benefit you as well.
Zamana badal gaya hai (Times have changed)
This phrase is true now, more than ever before. The phrase ‘Humare zamane mein’ (during our times) doesn’t work anymore. Our times (pre-1991) were different, TV was a rare privilege, we were not exposed to the internet or information overload, we lived in joint families and the world was a more secure place to live. There were lesser people on Earth and hence the competition was much lesser. The economy hadn’t opened up, 9/11 was not even planned, the world was more peaceful. We grew up as individuals whose elder cousins and friends or sometimes a friendly uncle/aunt behaved as counselors for our problems.
How can our era be compared to the times of today? Everything, just EVERYTHING is different. Shouldn’t our parenting style also change?
After the child completes 6 years of age:
Have a daily date with your child
Boss, relatives, in-laws, friends, spouse, maid, driver, bills, mobile phone, television etc. are always fighting for attention. Just add one more item to that never-ending list – spending time with your child. Place it at the top of your list (or maybe in the first 5). My husband and I lead an extremely busy life – more than 10 hours of work, 4 hours of travel and very little sleep. We still manage to set aside time for our kids. It is not the quantity of time that matters but the quality. How do we manage to do this?
Each and every day, wherever I am, I ensure that I do a video call with my son at least 3 times till I reach home. He tells me about his day and I share with him the highlights of the day. Sometimes these calls last for as less as 5 minutes.
Just as I would call up an important colleague and report my day, so also, I set aside this time for my son. It tells him that I am always with him and watching over him.
Develop a friendly relationship
Well-wisher: “Do you really think that a child will respect a parent who acts like a buddy?” Our answer was, “Yes, why not?”
While he shook his head in disbelief and amazement, we quietly smiled to ourselves.
It has always been our endeavor to be friends with our children. We share our problems, high points and express ourselves in front of our children. Of course, the expression and sharing are always watered down and largely age-appropriate. Our son perceives his parents to be his BFFs and thus ensures that he always shares his thoughts with us.
We don’t wait for something big, normal routine issues are used as conversation tools.
Throw bias and judgment out
No one likes to be judged. We are always on the lookout for a relationship where we receive unconditional love. Why don’t we apply the same rule and principle to our kids? Why does a child always have to feel on trial for every decision or result? Neutrality is the most important quality a parent must have. It is extremely difficult to put this into practice. We prefer to remain non-biased and lend a listening ear to our son.
There is always a fear of going wrong with being neutral towards issues and problems. We prefer it this way.
Allow time and space for expression
This again is a hallmark of our relationship with our son. If he has had a victory, we celebrate it. However, if he has failed in an endeavor or suffered a setback, we ensure that it is given enough time to fade away. As parents, we not only need to have large hearts to accommodate sadness but also patience to hear what we perceive as nonsense. A child’s world and experience are limited, the expression always emerges from this.
Teaching the child to develop a perspective after listening him out is our responsibility.
Just before the onset of puberty:
The above points are easy to follow and don’t require much thinking or planning. Now comes the tough part, what can one do just before your child enters puberty?
Breakdown puberty for them, feed their curiosity and demystify beliefs
Remember how we discovered puberty? It was either by accident or through an ‘informed’ friend. We read the wrong books and many of us carried the wrong notions about hormonal changes, periods, body hair, masturbation and other things.
Take a deep breath and in a calm, matter of fact manner discuss changes that are going to take place in your child’s body. Don’t snatch away the surprise and mystery element from your child but, at the same time, make him/her aware of what is in store.
There is a series of videos produced by Y Films that can help you further. Watch these with your spouse first and later with your child.
Sex Chat with Pappu and Papa:
Tell them about good touch and bad touch
Statistics show that pre-teens are the most gullible when it comes to sexual assault. Their raw pubescence is attractive to pedophiles and thus your child must know what are the dangers around. Instead of getting scared and creating panic in your child, explain the nuances of good touch and bad touch to them. Train them to shout for help and run to a safe place in case they encounter such a situation especially when you are not around. Coach them to voice their views even when it happens to anyone in their peer group.
Your child must feel safe with you and this can be possible when he/she believes that the parent will never judge them or laugh at thier feelings. Provide a secure environment for your child to thrive in.
Give them a lot of TLC (Tender Love & Care)
Your child is your pride and joy. Their happiness, sadness, anger, and joy affect your mood and lifestyle. Each milestone that they have achieved becomes your personal victory. During the early years, the parent-child bonding is at the peak, however, the same may not continue through the pre-teen years.
Just like any other relationship, a parent-child bond needs regular care. Like a plant that needs correct soil, sunlight, fertilizer, sun, and love, so does a parent-child bond.
Take a deep breath and calm down.
Trust your parenting skills. You and ONLY YOU know what is best for your child. Develop your own style of coping with this life change and you will emerge a winner, as always.
Many parents hate us
Several parents have criticised our parent style calling it open parenting or unnecessary transformational parenting. We prefer to ignore such forces and continue to do what is best for our child. After great pains and time investment we have come to a stage where we can proudly proclaim that we share a fantastic bond with our child. We hold respect for each other and understand each other’s feelings. Each time my son goes through a physical, mental or emotional change, either parent is first to know. We guide him to cope with the change and life goes on.
How are you coping with bringing up your pre-teen? Do you have a personal experience to share? Do drop in your views and comments, I would love to read them.
with inputs from Amarkant Jain and Abhimanyu (our son)
Here are a few other posts that will tell you more about our Parenting Style: