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Parenting Teens: Dealing with the Hormone Onslaught.

Updated on February 24, 2013
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Those dreaded hormones

“So,” you tell your friends, “You may laugh at me but I tell you there is something odd going on in my home.” Your friends look at you concerned, as you search for the words to explain. “You know that movie where the aliens take over people’s bodies?” Everyone around the table nods cautiously. “Well I think they’ve done that to my Jessie. I mean she looks like Jessie, walks and talks like Jessie, but she sure as hell doesn’t act like Jessie.”

As your friends begin to giggle nervously, you drive your point home, “No, guys, honestly. Yesterday she was sweet, helpful and fun to be around. Today she’s a…a…a grunting creature, who refuses to be pleased by anything. She lay in bed all afternoon, and only got out to consume limitless amounts of food, and when I asked her if she wanted to have a home spa day with me, she looked at me as if she had no idea who I was and said, ‘Seriously? That’s so lame, mom.’ And you all know how much Jessie loves our home spa days.”

You are not alone if you have begun to wonder, if your child has been replaced by some alien race from planet, ‘That’s So Lame’. When those hormones hit, no one can anticipate the effect it will have on your teen. Some sail through the hormone onslaught, whereas other teens undergo a complete personality overhaul.

Get prepared - learn the signs

There are a few of signs that your child’s hormones are about to flow:

  1. Just before puberty hits and the hormones take over your sweet little cherub, your child will hit a major growth spurt. They will shoot up and out. This event will not go unnoticed, mainly due to the fact that you will be forking out for a whole new wardrobe of clothing, because they will manage to outgrow every single item of clothing in their cupboard (seemingly overnight).
  2. As they get closer to puberty, they also begin to smell different (quite often this is not a good thing).
  3. Obvious body changes start taking place.

You will know that they have hit puberty, when they start acting indifferently to everything you do or suggest. Suddenly their favourite terms are, “I’m bored,” and “There is never anything to do in this place.” When just yesterday they were happy with the simple things in life, like climbing trees and playing superheroes.

Dealing with Hormone Attack

As much as this phase is difficult for you, it is just as hard for your teen. Your teen is in a difficult place right now. They are in limbo, in a world where they are neither a child nor an adult, an agonizing mix of vulnerability and potential. Everything your teen does has a high intensity feel about it.

Teenagers are the very embodiment of hormonal mayhem. When their bodies enter adolescence, their brain releases a specific hormone that starts the changes of puberty. Without getting too technical, this hormone is called gonadotropin-releasing hormone, or GnRH for short. When GnRH reaches the pituitary gland(a pea-shaped gland that sits just under the brain), it releases further hormones into the blood stream.

figure 1: The Pituitary Gland
figure 1: The Pituitary Gland

This hormone release is the same for both guys and girls, but the hormones go to work on different parts of the body in the different genders.

For guys, these hormones travel through the blood and give the testes the signal to begin the production of testosterone and sperm. Testosterone is the hormone that causes most of the changes in a guy’s body during puberty.

In girls, the hormones target the ovaries, which contain eggs that have been there since birth. The hormones stimulate the ovaries to begin producing another hormone called estrogen. Estrogen matures a girl’s body and prepares her physically for pregnancy.

That’s the abridged version of what happens during puberty. So what does this have to do with you and parenting? Well it gives you some insight as to why your teen seems to be a bit of a ‘Jekyll and Hyde.”

Just as those hormones create changes in the way their body looks on the outside, they also create changes on the inside. While their body is adjusting to all the new hormones, so are their minds and emotions. These hormones during puberty can make your child feel confused or have strong emotions that they have never experienced before. They could also struggle with and begin to feel anxious about how their changing body looks, which is why, you could find that all of a sudden you can’t say anything right. You could get an extreme reaction from a simple, “I think your hair needs a cut.” Purely because you have caught them at the wrong time of the month, just when they are feeling overly sensitive or are being easily upset. When they are feeling like this they will take your innocent comment to mean, “You’re hair is looking disgusting, you are ugly and you need a major overhaul.”

Do not be mislead to believe that it is only girls that go through these hormonal outbursts; boys are very prone to them too. Boys and girls just handle their emotions differently. Whereas girls quite often get cranky and tearful, boys will more than likely display agitation and sometimes show signs of aggression.

Remember you are not alone in this; most teens lose their tempers more than usual and get angry with their friends or families for no apparent reason. It is important during these times to understand where these outbursts are coming from. Reacting to them with anger and aggression will only make the situation worse. While it is important to teach them to control these emotional outbursts, you have to do it in a more sensitive way. Try keeping your calm by remembering that these outbursts are largely due to the physical changes that are going on, and while they are acting up in an aggressive and/or sulky way they are actually feeling quite lost inside. Be open and approachable. Speak to your teen about what is going on in their bodies, and explain to them that while these mood swings are normal, they need to be controlled, and handled in a more productive way.

For more ways to help your teen with their emotional state click here.

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    • Marina Goetze profile image
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      Marina 4 years ago from Cape Town

      Hi radame, it is a pleasure. I have found that when daughters are supported and treated with care during this phase, they seem to sail through it more easily. Open communication and love are key here. All the best on your journey with your daughter.

    • radame7 profile image

      radame7 4 years ago

      I dread this, as my daughter is 10. Thanks for the good advice!