Parents navigating the waters of adolescent change

February 14, 2017

At the age of 5 my daughter thought babies came from God and Disney World. For years, my wife and I had been trying to have another baby, and my daughter kept constantly praying for a sibling. A month before her 6th birthday, we took a trip to Disney World and my daughter decided to say a prayer, and make a wish in the wishing well at Cinderella’s Castle. 

When we returned from the trip, we indeed found out my wife was pregnant. I am not promoting nor do I believe that a wish in the well brought us a child. God made that happen on His own. Although my daughter didn’t tell us what she wished and prayed for at that time, she informed us that her prayerful wish came true when we broke the news to her.

A few years later, she comes home from school and asks me, “How are babies made and I know they don’t come from Disney World?” My critical thinking skills along with years of being a youth minister and DRE were put into action inside my head. I had addressed this topic with youth and young adults for years, and now I could use that wisdom and experience with my own child.

You can imagine how surprised I was when I heard these words coming out of my mouth, “Honey, go ask Mommy.” I froze and I was not prepared to have this discussion with my own child at this time. I was hoping we could wait a few years at least until she was 30. After this, a flood of other questions associated with that rite of passage known as puberty began.

Puberty can be a very exciting, scary and confusing time both physically and mentally for tweens and teens. They are learning how to deal with these new changes and emotions. For parents, it can also be a stressful time trying to help your child navigate through all these changes. Youth get advice from their friends, movies and social media. 

This advice can be very confusing and send mixed signals to our youth. In addition, many of the messages are in conflict with our Catholic values. Studies show the real voice they want to hear is that of their parents. The problem is they are often afraid to ask, and parents are often afraid to bring up the subject. 

The Mother-Daughter and Father-Son Programs help parents to address these issues. The two programs invite parents and children to begin the conversation regarding the issues surrounding puberty while helping young people develop a strong Catholic identity in a society that often dismisses the Gospel values.

These programs are currently overseen by the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization, and it is facilitated by youth ministry leaders, as well as teams of mothers/daughters and father/sons who share their stories, wisdom and professional expertise in the context of the Catholic faith. It includes specific content on how girls’ and boys’ physical and emotional changes prepare them for adulthood.

It models how respect, patience and open communication between parent and child are necessary during this process. Most importantly, it allowed parents and youth the time to put away the daily distractions and to focus the importance of their relationship while also providing valuable resources for parents and youth to continue the discussion. The programs are design for girls ages 9 to 12 and boys ages 10 to 14. 

Facilitator Ellis Hubbard said the program has been a powerful experience. Hubbard has partnered with his youngest son in the program for two years and said “it has allowed me to help groom and grow him as a young man who has confidence to speak about his personal experience with me as his father in front of others. I have witnessed in my workshops dads and sons shedding tears, hugging, smiling and enjoying each other’s company. The time we spend talking about ‘sensitive’ subjects and opening up conversations between the two of them are invaluable.” 

Gina Pasket has been a facilitator for the Mother-Daughter Program for many years. What she always finds interesting is that although times have changed, girls still want strong relationships with their mothers as someone who will continue to love them unconditionally and be a champion for them. 

Mother-Daughter and Father-Son programs are offered in English and Spanish. For more information, please contact the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization at 713-741-8723. 

Randy Adams is the associate director of the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.