Updated: Dec 1, 2022
By Lauretta Iyamu
Reading time 5 minutes ⏰
Here comes adolescence knocking at the door. Hey! Yes! Time has passed so quickly! Have you noticed changes in your child's mood? Maybe not! Maybe she was very gentle and suddenly she is fierce. Perhaps she remains true to herself, displaying her usual mood. No, adolescence does not always rhyme with a crisis! However, your child is going through a critical developmental stage. A stage that includes many changes and with which new needs could arise. Here are some things to think about to prepare for it… as best you can!
1. Physical changes
First, during adolescence, your child's body changes. For some people with autism, these changes can generate misunderstanding, worry, and even anxiety. There are several picture books that can help you explain to your child the changes that occur during puberty. The appearance of hair (shaving), the arrival of menstruation, or the development of breasts and genitals may seem at first glance, a daunting challenge. It is important to listen to your child during this period. This will help you choose the right time to discuss it with her.
Even if your child doesn't communicate verbally, she needs to understand what's going on. You know your child and you will know how far you can go in your explanations. A social script with pictures or words can be a simple and effective tool. Your child can refer to it as needed. In addition, the social scenario has the advantage of being fully customizable. You can, for example, insert photos of your child before and now to illustrate the changes that are happening on the physical level. For the more technical aspects of puberty, such as shaving, you can turn to videos or photos. There are tons of them on the internet!
Note that hygiene can become an issue in adolescence, especially because of perspiration. This can quickly turn into a social issue if your teenager is neglectful on this side: some friends will not hesitate to make fun of her... It is therefore important to make sure that your teenager really washes, that she uses, if necessary, deodorant, and that she changes her clothes every day. It may seem trivial, but it's the little things that make a big difference. At first, you can establish a new routine that considers her new needs. You can also prepare a hygiene kit of her own with a soap she likes. You can even get perfume samples at the pharmacy or gel for her hair.
2. Psychological changes
Hormonal changes can also cause mood swings. Your teen may go through periods of upheaval or be more irritable. As much as possible, welcome her and find the best way for her to express what she feels: speak, write, draw, choose an image, or use a sign. Mood scales or thermometers can help her indicate her level of discomfort, anger, or sadness. You can use numbers from 1 to 10 or pictures to represent the different levels.
If your teenager has difficulty self-regulating, that is, managing her anger, anxiety, or frustrations, she may be more aggressive or, on the contrary, isolates herself. You can help her recognize certain signs of anxiety or anger by identifying how it manifests for her. During adolescence, your child should begin to draw on her own resources to find the best strategies for her: what allows her to calm down, regain her composure, and what makes her good? Are always these strategies accessible everywhere (at home, at school, in a public place)?
Your child may need to develop certain skills in communication, assertiveness, or managing emotions. It is certainly not too late!
3. The discovery of sexuality
With adolescence also comes the discovery of sexuality, which does not, however, prevent some people from discovering it much earlier in their lives. In this case, sexual behaviour may intensify in adolescence.
Based on the many questions from parents about sexuality, I conclude that this is a sensitive subject for many parents. So, if you're not sure how to approach this question with your teenager, know that you're not alone! If you really don't feel comfortable doing this, you can ask for help from a counselor to help or guide you.
To start, you can establish some rules: where, when, and how can she live her sexuality? In addition, this period of sexual discovery is pivotal for learning behaviours in terms of seduction. It is important to teach your teen what is and isn't allowed. I encourage you to do scenarios with him: how to approach a person who attracts her, for example. These new skills need to be practiced many times before they are acquired.