Get ready for your “Father of the Year” award. (You’re welcome!)
Teenage years can be awkward for boys: the tsunami-like waves of physical and emotional changes, the sudden, inexplicable, attraction to GIRLS (considered weird and boring until now) and the urge to splash faces with your pricey aftershaves. Let’s face it – you, and they, need all the help you can get! So, with no further ado…
Taming the whiskers
The first sprout of facial fuzz comes at a time when they’re SO desperate to look grown-up. Inevitably, they don’t, so that man-child phase has to be mitigated with a good clean shave . Most boys in their teenage awkwardness remain zip-lipped about the changes to their faces. Instead of asking you for help, they’ll grapple behind closed doors with one of your discarded blunt razors. Not a great idea for a first-timer!
Save him the embarrassment by asking if he’d like some help picking out some shaving products. Share your tips and techniques for getting a good clean shave and buy some products that will suit his skin – consider a multi-purpose product to make it easier for him when shopping solo next time round.
It’s OK to reach out
When reaching 13, boys tend to go one of two ways; swaggering around shopping precincts as if they’re King Of The World, or retreating behind locked bedroom doors, communicating only through grunts and sighs. Either way, it’s often around this time when communication between fathers and sons is lost (or at least mislaid) for a few years. You may feel you don’t know how to get through to him – and vice versa. Future-proof your relationship BEFORE those self-conscious teenage years begin. A hug here and a reassuring hand on their shoulder there, might just be enough to give him the understanding he needs when he’s unable to tell you what’s on his mind.
Mental health matters
With physical changes taking centre stage, it’s often easy to forget the confusion of emotions a teenager goes through. Cast your mind back to the turmoil of how you felt figuring out how to behave around girls and cope with school and peer group pressure – and that was BEFORE the exploding pressures of texting, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and so on. So, when you find yourself eye-rolling at his unfathomable behaviour, remember just how much those things can be toying with his mental health.
Try to encourage him to speak openly by sharing some experiences from your own teenage years. Let him know it’s OK to be vulnerable – and the best way of doing this is showing you’re vulnerable yourself.
… as does physical health
Ah, yes, the art of self-care – something we all struggle with but, for the sake of your adolescent son, you’ll need to practise what you preach; the best way of getting him on board is by having him emulate how you treat yourself and laying the groundwork here will set him up for life-long good habits.
Show him how to eat well, prioritise good sleep habits and give him some smart tips on dealing with stress and tricky life situations. Encourage a healthy interest in exercise by buddying up for gym training or park runs. Physical activity is essential to his wellbeing; even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking can increase mental alertness, energy and positive mood – and the father-son bonding time is priceless.
And what you don’t need to know
What his internet history looks like – there is a reason the “delete history” button was invented and you want to be able to look him in the eye again. Simple parental controls and having a face- to-face conversation about what you feel is OK (and not) should help lay the foundations for a relationship of trust and make him think twice when he’s clicking around online.
Be mindful for the warning signs of what means he might be struggling though, such as extreme weight gain or loss, problems with sleep, rapid, drastic changes in personality, mood or behaviour, and a switch in friendship groups. If in doubt, a doctor or counsellor is on hand to help.
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Walking in (affective) circles: Can short walks enhance affect? Journal of Behavioural Medicine Ekkekakis, P., Hall, E.E., Van Landuyt, L.M. & Petruzzello, S