Though a pain, braces are a necessary part of many kids’ lives. Up to 75 percent of children could benefit from them, according to the Discovery Fit & Health website. Most tweens are nervous about getting braces because it’s an unknown concept—they don’t have prior experience in this area and don’t know what to expect. Giving them knowledge is truly powerful. Read this guide to keeping your child healthy and happy between now and the big day when he can say goodbye to braces forever.

Orthodontist Eric Leber sees many tweens who need braces in his Tucson, Arizona office. He often speaks to kids who are nervous about the various aspects of having braces. Here are some talking tips for your family:

No shots. Dr. Leber promises, “During the entire journey with braces, we have great news for you: You will never receive a shot.” For a few days after a kid first gets braces put on, they may irritate the inside of his mouth a bit, and his teeth will be uncomfortable for a few days each time the braces are tightened, but that’s the only pain he’ll feel during treatment.

Braces show your personality. Red and green for Christmas? Blue and red for your favorite sports team? You can change the color of the bands around your braces each time they are tightened. It’s fun to try new color combinations.

Contests. Many orthodontists run monthly contests that reward patients for keeping their appointments and maintaining their braces properly. Earn a ticket each time you come in, enter a drawing for a large prize, or save your tickets to trade for gift cards later!

Take time to spoil. Since he won’t be able to eat sticky or hard foods such as caramel, taffy and beef jerky, put together a bag of soon-to-be-banned goodies for him to snack on a few days before his appointment.

Don’t worry about pain. Getting braces put on is one of the easiest parts of having braces! Just sit back and relax while your orthodontist and dental assistants place the braces on your teeth. You don’t have to do a thing. Dr. Leber assures his patients, “Getting braces is truly a simple and painless process.” The orthodontist will gently place brackets on the teeth and use a special light to set them in place.

Milkshakes for dinner. When braces are first placed on the teeth and each time they are tightened, they become sore for a few days. Deciding beforehand to pack pudding for lunch and make milkshakes and smoothies for dinner is a great idea. Your child will feel a little spoiled and won’t go hungry while his teeth hurt.

Braces aren’t fun—you already knew that. Kids can be very insecure about the way they look with braces, and could easily feel like the braces are a much bigger deal than they really are. As a parent, it’s important to acknowledge his feelings and avoid saying things like, “Well, I had to deal with them, so now it’s your turn” or “You look fine.”

Mention to him that not getting braces now will lead to misaligned teeth later in life, and stress the importance of getting them early on. For tweens, braces are common and your child can share the experience with several classmates—as an adult, braces would be much more awkward.

There will always be mean kids in school. They call kids “brace face” or “metal mouth” to upset them. It’s crucial to prepare your child for this. Here are three ways to cope with being picked on:

Walk away. Tell your child to walk away and ignore the bully. He isn’t the first kid to get braces and he won’t be the last—eventually the kid who is teasing will get bored.

Kill them with kindness. Smile big and say thank you to the bully. Tell him he is lucky to have such great teeth. It takes more effort to smile and be kind, but it always works in the end.

Mentally encourage yourself. “Braces are better to have now than later in life.” “My teeth will be perfectly straight after this!” “This is just a temporary thing.” These are all great things your kid can say to himself if someone teases him.

Braces are so common that they’re almost a rite of passage nowadays. Encouraging and preparing your child will help you have a happy tween (with great teeth) in your house.