Puberty can be a confusing and challenging time for a child. In many ways it is no less confusing and challenging for the whole family. Though you have been through puberty at least once before, on your own behalf, and maybe more than one time if this is not your eldest child, every experience is somewhat different. Every experience of puberty is new. The good news is that you can get though it.
Even better, you can get your child through the experience, but it won't be simple. Puberty coincides with your child's need to pull away from you and establish his or her own identity even further. The very identity your child is trying to establish is in flux, however, and you will both feel the complicated push and pull of your attempts to navigate this time while preserving your relationship.
Long before puberty begins, you have a responsibility to begin preparing your child for its onset. The term puberty is primarily used to refer to the physical changes that our bodies undergo as we move from childhood to reproductive maturity. It is important that you be aware that this time also coincides with and influences a period of mental and emotional development as well. The physical changes of puberty, while sometimes easiest to cope with, do not occur in a vacuum. If your child is a girl you can expect these changes to occur sometime between eight and fifteen years of age.
Boys develop somewhat later, puberty usually occurs between nine and seventeen years of age. You should have begun to familiarize your child with the coming changes long before they reach these ages. This will ease the transition and help your child feel some control and familiarity with what can be a bewildering process.
All the preparation in the world is not going to change the fact that puberty will come as something as a surprise to both you and your child, however. It is simply too great a set of changes to take in without difficulty. In addition, these changes will occur by degrees over time. Sometimes your child will feel overwhelmed by their onslaught and sometimes they will despair that nothing seems to be happening. They may feel that nothing ever will. It is your job to be supportive during this time, but also to ease away and let your child begin to take primary control of his or her own life. It can end up being a very difficult balancing act.
It is still up to you to guide the process, however. Your child is too inexperienced to responsibly navigate these waters while under the heady influence of new thoughts, feelings, and ideas. You will need to rely on the relationship and the communication skills that you have fostered with your child during their early years. This is what will ultimately allow your child to turn to you, even when the relationship is changing completely.