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Raising Preteens: Realizing How Uncool You Have Become

Riding the Preteen Roller Coaster

Preteens can be very emotional. Some of this has to do with their uncertainty about growing up, but some of it is strictly physical—they're starting to go through hormonal changes that they do not understand. Your preteen's ups and downs are there for her (or him—boys get them, too) to handle—they sure won't be very much fun for you. The best thing you can do is stand out of the way and wait until your child asks you for help.

The only real way to survive this stage in your child's life is to have begun building good communication much earlier. If you have a good basic relationship, your preteen may push you away but will still turn back to you when she needs your advice, counsel, and involvement. And make no mistake about it: A preteen needs a mother, perhaps more than she needs you at any other stage.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

If you have any doubt that the preteen years are a time of insecurity, just watch your child discover the mirror. In many ways, he is seeing himself for the very first time. He'll spend hours in front of the mirror, looking at every angle of his face, and all the while, he'll be comparing himself to everyone he knows. “Is my nose too big?” he'll worry. “I hate my ears,” she'll moan. This is a time of extreme self-consciousness, and your acceptance is an important reassurance that everything is still fine. Even though your child feels as if he's being turned upside down with changes, you can help him see that he is still the same person, only getting better.

Dealing with Dork-dom

All the while that your child is dealing with these changes, she has definitively demoted you to dork status. What's worse yet, now's the time that you're bound to start feeling like a dork, as the world changes around you. Your child's entry into the preteen years is the first time you'll really have to acknowledge that you're not a kid anymore, yourself. For the first time in your life you'll find yourself looking at clothing and wondering whether it will make you look as though you're trying to be too young. Now's when your supercool daughter can come in decidedly handy: When she tells you, “I'm in junior high, so I know about these things,” you'll be wise to realize she is right. Don't let it make you feel like a has-been—thank her for saving you from looking like one of those moms who always seem to be trying to be too cool.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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