My child thinks I’m an embarrassment. When will this end?

“Don’t come in when you pick me up at school.”

“Please don’t be a chaperone.”

“We can’t go to the mall together – my friends might be there.”

Twelve- and thirteen-year-olds are easily embarrassed by their parents. They may feel humiliated by anything their parents do in public, such as laugh out loud, cheer at a game, sneeze, wave, or simply stand around. Parents may put up with their child’s embarrassment and even be amused by it for a while. But sometimes they find it annoying to be warned off, criticized, and ignored.

A child this age is self-conscious and uncertain about her own behavior. She can easily extend her self-consciousness to include her behavior parents’ behavior, feeling that what they do reflects on her. If her parents “make a mistake,” she worries that her friends will think less of her. One father, out with his son, said, “Hi Andy,” to a child whose name was really Annie. Annie didn’t mind, but the son was extremely embarrassed: “When you said the wrong name it made me feel dumb.”

Being part of the group is very important to twelve- and thirteen-year-olds. They are becoming increasingly independent of their parents and want to spend more time with their peers. A child wants to act the way her friends do, which is different from the way she acts at home. When her friends and her parents are together, even briefly, she feels embarrassed and awkward. She doesn’t want her parents to see her joke around and relate to her peers, especially those of the opposite sex. And she doesn’t want her friends to see how she behaves with her family. One child was invited to a Bar Mitzvah along with her parents. She told them, “I’m not going to like this. I can’t dance if you’re there looking at me.”

A child cares a great deal about her friends’ opinions, including their opinion of her parents. It’s hard to convince her that her peers are emotionally removed from all parents but their own—she still feels that her parents are the focus of attention. And even if her parents are young in spirit, have a good relationship with her, and are comfortable with her friends, she’ll continue to worry.

You may think your child’s embarrassment is silly. But she’s showing common early adolescent thinking and behavior. You probably can remember similar feelings about your own parents. One mother told her grown daughter, “You used to be just like Erica is. You always wanted me to walk three feet in front of you.” If you and your child discuss the issue honestly, you will probably hear that she likes being with you at home or at activities where parents are usually involved, such as watching a game or eating out. She just doesn’t want to be with you in front of her friends.

You can try modifying some of your behavior to show respect for her feelings. If she doesn’t want you to tell jokes when her friends are present go along with her. However, if her embarrassment is consistently excessive, let her know you will have to be together in public at times. You should continue to talk to her friends when you see them.

Don’t try to lessen her embarrassment by becoming “friends” with her and her peers. Dressing, talking, or behaving like an adolescent is not appropriate. She needs to feel separate from you. Work on building a positive relationship with her by talking, showing an interest, guiding her, and respecting her.

While the majority of children feel embarrassment over minor incidents, some have to deal with seriously embarrassing situations involving irresponsible parents. If your family is experiencing complex problems, your child – and the rest of the family – can benefit from professional help.

In most cases, however, embarrassment is short-lived and nothing to worry about. Once your child gains more independence and experience socializing, her comfort with you will increase.

Picture Credit : Google