I could not believe the words my eleven year old said. “Mommy, the kids say I smell, and I noticed hair growing down there.” Of course, I had suspected as much from his behavior, taste in music, and interest in his peer group. But nothing had quite prepared me for my exceptional child hitting puberty this early! Friends have shared with me about their kids’ bodily changes as well as crushes on girls, but I naively thought, I have another year or two. I even joked with another friend, oh please, with challenging behaviors, diabetes, autism, and ADHD my hair will go white and I will completely lose it if puberty strikes now. Well, the joke is on me folks. Puberty is here and is intensifying. The weird thing is, my kid both needs and rejects me. Friends are important in the day, but at bedtime, Mom tuck me in, hug me, talk to me. Hmm. I remember this from thirty some odd years ago, when I did the same with my parents. I was close to them, but so desperately trying to flee from their conventions. And I was a so-called “good girl.” 🙂
It is both exciting and terrifying to see Michael entering puberty so early. At least it feels early for me. I guess the next thing will be interest in girls, his body, or both. Oh boy. I’ll leave that one to Dad. 🙂 Though I am up for any honest discussion about love, intimacy and spirituality. I have the benefit of several friends whose sons have entered this phase already sharing their knowledge with me, so I know we can laugh and talk about it. I am also glad that Michael is going through this phase as any child would. I just need to have the tools ready to help him address his questions and feel at ease. Just like a neuro typical child, not every child with autism experiences puberty in the same way. As parents, we need to respect that, be there for them, and give them room to breathe and be who they are. It is challenging for us as parents not to panic. I am glad we have medicinal and behavioral strategies in place to help Michael reach his potential.
Michael also coaches us daily in what he needs to thrive- parents who are adventure seekers, open to trying new things, and accepting of him, difficulties and all. Dad and I are all those things. We struggle sometimes to understand who is this child? The child that once listened to us the majority of the time with little incentive or rewards, now requires immense promise of rewards to comply. The child that once wanted us to play with him all the time and BE with him, now wants us there with him, but as an ends to a means. He is scared, help him. He needs to go somewhere, drive him. It is both comforting and disconcerting. He is growing up, but needs to learn strategies to manage, stress, anxiety and anger. Dad and I are working hard with his team to help him learn to handle all the changes happening. Dad and I are also working to handle our own emotions, take care of ourselves individually and as a couple, and help those around us. None of this is easy, but is important and so worth it in the end.
Exceptional Parents, have your Exceptional Children hit puberty yet? If they have, how are you handling it? If they have not, how do you think you will handle it? Remember, if you take care of yourself by staying calm, collected and in control, you will be setting the best example for your child. If they have, pace yourself. As long as you are able to keep your sense of humor and sympathy for the hard road ahead for them, (and you as their guides), you will continue to be their best cheerleader and advocate, teaching them to care for themselves as you care for yourself. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.