Transitions can be scary: a place of unknown, a black hole, out of control, stormy. It is normal for girls to feel anxious or fearful around the transition phase of life called puberty.
However, sometimes girls are down right adamant that puberty is NOT going to happen to them!
They don't want to give up their younger selves or their younger bodies. They don't want their bodies to change and they don't want to lose control of how and when it will happen. They don't want to give up playing their "childhood" games and when puberty comes knocking at their door early, it can cause a heightened sense of these feelings.
When girls are resistant to puberty we need to recognize the wisdom that is coming from deep within them. They get it. They get that they will be seen differently, although they can't really put a firm understanding and expression of it. They get that things become a lot more complicated as they leave the childhood years behind.
So How can we be there for them?
Don't try and fix it: Sometimes as parents we want to fix things, to make them all better. It's hard to watch our kids suffer and not want to take it all away. Here's the thing, when kids feel such big emotions they don't want us to fix it! They want us to let them feel them, express them and hold them while they do. We don't have to solve it, always help them figure out the why, or come up with ways to make it better. Just be there and hold them in the muck!
Keep showing up: Keep talking and communicating in whatever way works for them. This means that you may have to have a conversation around expression. Do they want to talk about it, write about it (journal with you), sing? Share with them the importance of continuing to move through their feelings and ask them how they want you to connect with them.
Know what's normal: It is important to know what is normal for kids to experience during this time! It helps keep you sane and it helps you notice anytime where what your child is experiencing is something you might want to seek additional guidance around. It is really normal for emotions to be all over the place; emotional storms! It is normal for kids to experience anxiety and fear around these changes and to move through them.
Know what's NOT normal: It is not normal for them to want to hurt themselves, to not want to communicate in some way to some one about the changes, to have major personality changes that are destructive and dark. When things that are abnormal are occurring it may be due to many different deeper reasons. It may be awakening a loss of control in their life and have nothing to do with "puberty" but more to do with unresolved issues with a divorce, bullying or any other things that occurred or are occurring where they feel out of control. In these cases their intense resistance to puberty is their expression of the unresolved issue and additional support is recommended.
Draw out their stories: They also may have stories about what puberty looks like. One of the first things we can do as parents to support them is to draw out the stories they are telling themselves about puberty. They may have seen something, heard something or gotten an idea about something that just isn't true. Often times the stories are around seeing sex as tied up with puberty and they are NOT ready for that! It's up to us to find out what those stories are. You can do this by asking what they think and feel about x,y or z (open ended questions) or you can practice writing or telling a story, where your daughter gives a fictitious character a story around puberty and see what comes up.
Give them knowledge: Share with them what the changes are all about and why they happen. Talk to them about their questions, go through books with them and show them how to put on pads, tampons or take a powerful puberty class and learn about all these things and so much more with other girls and their mothers!
Offer stability in their emotions swings: We are all humans right? Of course when your daughter is raging at you or throwing a tween tantrum it is easy to say "stop it, grow up, it's not that bad" or just simply to be reactive to them. What actually helps in these situations is being a emotionally stable adult. Don't worry none of us are perfect and sometimes we will react and join in the storm, it's normal! Don't beat yourself up! However, it's important that we understand where they are at, so that the majority of the time, we are a tree swaying in their storm, rather than joining in to create a super storm. Connecting with other adults around this to decompress is HUGE. (I have created a Powerful Puberty facebook group just for this decompression and learning, feel free to join!)
Honor the negative feelings and show the positive side: Honor the crud; whatever that looks like to them! Saying things like, "Yeah I get how that seems weird or how you don't want that to happen" and see if you can draw out the stories of why. Make sure the honoring is also mixed in (in the right moment, not in the emotional stormy times) with all the amazingness about the change. Puberty is a time where she gets to step into her own strength, make more of her own choices and discover more of her unique personality and how that shows up in the world.
Create a ritual: Puberty is a coming of age, a transition in life and it should be honored. Find some way of creating and honoring your daughter. I suggest that you make sure that she knows that she is still the same as she was the day before her period started or her hair grew and she is also new and deeper.
Girls that are going through or have gone through puberty need to be shown that they are still who they were before. Simply put, there is a now a new layer to who they are and that will continue to happen as they grow older. It doesn't take away from who they are. They can bring their joys, toys and friends along with them on the journey. They are simply becoming a more full version of themselves.