As preteens sort through sometimes conflicting messages from parents, peers, and media, it can be challenging to guide them down a path toward positive self-image and healthful eating and exercise habits.
At the November 1 Preteen Alliance luncheon, Ann Tipton, MD, an adolescent medicine specialist from Kaiser Permanente, and Amy Jussel, a media expert and executive director of Shaping Youth, offered tools to help parents and caregivers meet those challenges head-on.
Am I normal?
Do I fit in? Should I fit in?
Why do I feel the way I do?
When do I have to start worrying about taxes?
These are some of the “Important Questions on the Minds of Preteens” addressed by Rob Lehman, MD, and Julie Metzger, RN, MN, at Preteen Alliance luncheons held in October and November.
Both luncheons were extremely popular, with long waiting lists. Rob and Julie, who run a series of workshops for preteens and parents at both Seattle Children’s Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, shared insights into how preteens think.
The message at a Preteen Alliance luncheon held March 3 was clear — start talking before kids start drinking.
The luncheon speakers, David Mineta, deputy director of Asian American Recovery Services, and Mary Bier, coordinator of the Partnership for a Safe and Healthy Pacifica, discussed a tragic alcohol-related accident that prompted Pacifica to organize a community-wide effort to prevent substance abuse among youth.
The Partnership was formed shortly after the deaths of 19-year-old Jonny Bier, Mary’s nephew, and 16-year-old Stephanie Echeverri, who were in an alcohol-related car accident.
If you couldn’t attend the October 25 Preteen Alliance luncheon about girls’ health, here are some highlights:
It’s crucial for parents to talk with preteen girls about sexual issues, so that they develop healthful habits later in life; and
The HPV vaccine, which recently was recommended for preteen girls starting at age 9 to help prevent cervical cancer, is an important — and safe – vaccination, even at that young age.
These were among the key points made by two experts from Kaiser San Jose — Dr. Bryna Barsky-Ex, a psychologist and sex therapist in the psychiatry and OB/GYN departments, and Dr. Seham El-Diwany, a pediatrician with more than 20 years experience.
Before you know it your preteen child will begin to transform into an adolescent. Just as you watched your baby learn to walk and talk, you’ll watch your preteen walk a little further away from you and begin to talk about video games, clothes, music, and being cool.
When children enter puberty it’s hard to know when emotional intensity and mood swings are part of the normal changes of puberty or signs of more serious issues such as depression and anxiety.
During the early preteen years your child might still tell you what’s going on, but as preteens travel on the road to becoming a teenager, and behaviors start to change, it’s common for parents to lose sleep thinking about all of the things that could go wrong.
Preadolescence challenges preteens and parents. Let’s face these challenges as allies! Besides bestowing us with changes in appearance, attitude, mood, and behavior, preadolescence presents us some serious and difficult challenges.
What happened to my child? Preteens begin to redefine themselves in relation to parents and siblings — who may not welcome the changed roles — and develop new interests, which may not be shared by others at home.
Social Studies, or social scene? The school environment around the middle school years is stressful, as academic subjects become more complicated, and motivation toward studying may be affected by alternative competing inclinations
Dangers ahead! Preteens face powerful social pressures from their peers, the neighborhoods where they live, and from mass media. Parents may feel helpless in shielding their kids from the many influences that threaten their safety and well being.
The transition from elementary school to middle school is one of the most significant changes in a child’s educational life.
The transition is magnified because preteens are faced with the many major structural differences between elementary and middle school at the very time that their bodies and emotions are changing at the most rapid rates of their lives.
By understanding the following points about the nature of preteens entering middle school, parents can turn this challenging transition into a positive foundation for future interactions with their children:
My earliest mentor was an artist named Esmé who lived up the street from my family. She would open her tiny art studio to a few neighborhood kids and let us do whatever we wanted. Esmé gave a few pointers and demonstrated some techniques, but for project ideas, she let us take the lead, offering only words of encouragement.
My parents still have some of my art from that time: painted plaster casts of toothpaste tubes inscribed with “Silly String,” glazed ceramic containers with no practical purpose, and many painted pet rocks. These experiences with Esmé had many impacts on me, influencing my choice of career as an artist and art therapist, my belief in the power of creative expression, and my strong support of mentoring young people.
Most of us can recall at least one adult who made us feel special, who nurtured our talents, who reinforced the idea that we were fine just the way we were. These people are mentors, whether in formal programs, at the workplace, or through an informal network of family and friends. In 2005, 3 million adults identified themselves as mentors to young people. One researcher lists 17.6 million additional American youth who want or need a mentor.
Like many people, I remember the first time my dad took the training wheels off my bike. With a mix of fear, excitement, and adrenalin, I started out slowly and wobbly down the street, my dad jogging along beside me. I kept looking over to make sure he was there in case I lost control. He was, and I felt reassured.
As I straightened the wheels out a bit and picked up the pace, however, I suddenly looked over and realized he was not there and promptly fell off my bike. I sat there on the hard sidewalk inspecting my scratches as he ran up to me. He asked me what happened. Why did you stop?
I wailed back, you were not there. Where did you go? He explained to me that I was doing fine, and I did not need him. And then, he did the most important thing. He made me get back up on my bike and try again.