Parenting Through Puberty
It’s time to strap on extra fortitude and temperance – the teen years are about to begin! Parenting children between the ages of 9-12 requires more understanding, foresight and strategy than ever because children in this stage of life begin the complex and sometimes unsettling process of becoming adults. Every aspect of their being is about to undergo a process of change. And, whether you like it or not, whether you find it easy or not, whether you want this to happen or not, it is your obligation to walk with your children and guide them towards an adult life that is pleasing to God.
Probably the most difficult part of parenting a child at this time is the fact that God’s timing for full maturation is inconsistent – nothing is normal. Some children develop slowly – others quickly. If you think this is confusing for you as an adult, remember that the child is just as perplexed (if not more so).
The most visible signs of emerging adulthood typically are physical; growth spurt, body shape changes, additional body hair. Don’t be fooled that the ‘external’ body is the only thing that is developing. Internal organs are also changing. In particular, the brain is also undergoing acute differentiation. Simplistically, the brain is experiencing a ‘rewiring’ that has to occur so that your child will not only look like an adult but also think like and adult.
With the changes in the brain, parents will become aware that the personal, social, intellectual, moral and spiritual components of the child will also mature. (Again, there is no ‘normal’ progression – God intends this process to be unique in each child.) Parents will notice the child will want more independence, have more passionate opinions, desire more attention from members of the opposite gender, be more emotional and spend more time pondering life.
Be not afraid of this age span! Engage in the process – hang in there for the long haul – commit to being there both now and forever. Embrace both the challenges and the blessings that are in your future. Your rewards will be great in heaven. Let's first take a look at how families can accomplish Saint Pope John Paul II's tasks of the family as children reach puberty, so they can continue to grow in their vocation as Christian families!
Forming a Community of Persons
Even though your child wants more independence during these years, it is your obligation to keep him firmly rooted in the norms and expectations of the family. This is the first task that you have as a parent. In order to ensure that neither you nor your child bails out of the family during this time we offer the following guidelines.
Parents who have been honoring God’s plan for love and life and responsible parenthood up to this point will find the task of serving life in the pre-teen years much easier. Because they have lived marital chastity during the early family years, they will have a firm foundation of knowledge and wisdom in the matters of love, life and sexuality. Their participation in the deep mystery of God’s plan for human bonding and its fruitfulness will guide them as they gradually unfold information about sexuality and marital love to their children.
It is the parent’s duty to help their children know the mysteries of human life. No one can deliver the information with as much impact as the parent – no one. Children will remember what the parent has to say more than they will heed any other person’s ideas. This is critical to understand – whatever you say about sexuality and marital love will leave a lasting mark on your child. Whether it is the richness of the truth or some cheap counterfeit notion of love what you say will leave a lasting impression. We implore you to do you homework on this topic and search for what is truthful and beautiful. Settle for nothing less than the best!
The Office of Family Life for the Diocese of La Crosse has developed a three presentation series on parenting, human sexuality and chastity called Teaching the Way of Love. Attending these presentations is a wonderful way to learn more about the Catholic Church Teachings on love and life and prepare yourself to share this intimate information with your children. Here is a brief description of each presentation.
When your children were younger, developing society as a family was directed by the parents. You determined where and how your family would serve others. The impetus for action originated from your passions more than from the hearts of your children. Well, this is about to change. As your children reach this stage, they are going to have their own ideas about how to serve others through volunteerism and social justice. This is not to say that you are going to become a rubber stamp for whatever they want to do. Rather, it means that more discussion and guidance (and perhaps a greater firmness in your discipline) will be needed to steer your child towards socially just behaviors. Consider the following
Participate in the Life & Mission of the Church
Children at this age are masters at memorization. They are also at an age of great intellectual curiosity. The parent's task is to engage that curiosity and capitalize on their increased learning capacity to lead them to a better understanding of the faith. One mistake that parents often make at this stage is to assume that their children will receive all religious education in the classroom, either in a Catholic school or in a religious education program. Children at every stage in life look to their families for attitudes toward the faith. If parents leave faith formation and education exclusively up to religious education teachers, children will learn that faith is separate from everyday life. Religious education programs and Catholic schools are only meant to supplement the faith formation that happens in the home. Here's what you can do.
- The Full Growing in the Way of Love Program Can Be Found at This Link
- Questions Youth Should Discuss With Parents Worksheet of eight questions youth should think about and discuss with their parents.
- Standards Discussion Guide Worksheet that describes eight areas of family life that parents and youth of middle school age need to discuss and prepare standards for.
- Theology of the Body:A Catechesis into the Fullness of Love An article published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Theology of the Body by Father José Granados, a Member of the Disciples of the Hearts. Father Granados explains how human love is tied to divine love, making it sacred and beautiful.
- The Problem with Pornography
- Married Love and the Gift of Life
- Emergency Contraceptive Fails to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies and Abortions
- Researchers Agree with the Pope about Condoms and AIDS
- Great Access to Contraception Does not Reduce Abortions
- Theology of the Body According to Pope John Paul II