You know that the sweetness of her smile and the kindness of her 11 year old voice won’t last very long because you have experienced being a tween parent now for 3 years. Without skipping a beat she is suddenly screaming and ranting and freaking out about something you are oblivious to and shouting – I hate you! It’s then that you remember you’re a parent of a tween
How can we talk to our tween’s? They tell us we scream or the teachers yell- but many times and most of the time- they are just pulling some random remembrance out of a long time ago moment. You may not even remember. They feel misunderstood because their bodies, minds, and friends all seem to be changing so much of the time! Tween’s live in a state of ‘above the clouds’ or ‘disconnect’. Ask a question or make a comment- you may hear an answer or a garbled ‘uhhh-uhhh’. Living in expectation of them to answer right now will close a conversation attempt before it begins. You may hear in a week or a month the answer but no one- not even them many times, knows what’s inside their minds.
As soon as your face becomes inpatient looking or angry looking- a tween has labeled you as ‘mean’ or ‘not nice’. I try to avoid those looks that will spread across my blown mind, so instead I conditioned myself. My tone needs to be matter-of-fact as I try to establish some form of communication with tween’s. Paying attention to me is my goal so if I blow it with a face look or a tone then it’s a no-go!
What to do what to do-
To get our tween’s to stay connected or open up to us, we need to be open and honest with our own experiences, respond in positive tones when they come around and share what they are concerned with or fearful of, and emphasize how we enjoy his/her sharing. The biggie is sympathizing with his/her feelings by listening and listening again. It’s tough because so often they go on and on about stuff that doesn’t make sense to us. But belittling and brushing-off their feelings is seen as rejection which can have lasting effects. Validating is what we want even with our own spouses so why would it be less with our tweens? To validate doesn’t mean we are in agreement but we are giving them the right to share and own those feelings and emotions.
I can’t help but wonder how in the world I can get my child to open up when it is a solid fact that police officers and other authorizes have a difficult time getting tween’s to work with them and get answers. Unwilling to answer questions is not peculiar for these tough years between elementary and high school. Shrugs and sighing is often the recourse tween’s will resort to.
Find Activities to Share-
Side by side games is often a great way to get answers as you play a board game together laughing and at the same time you will be capturing their trust. Anxiety melts and wandering minds become focused when games are the focus. Conversation is not the focus as they see it- the board game is so they easily engage with us in conversation. Or playing outdoors at their favorite sport like a round of ‘horse’ at the basketball hoop we can strike up- ‘how was your day or share a bit about your own day or get their input on a decision we need to make. Before we know it they will share something about school/friends/tests/after school things.
Whether it is laughing or on the verge of tears- we need to be able to let them be themselves. Feelings and emotions are real and need to be expressed but they need to learn that we are people that are safe. They will find that true if we don’t jump down their necks when they cry or won’t talk. We are safe parents that might not have all the answers they need- but know we are there to listen and listen again.
- Don’t wait for a crisis to keep the lines of communication open with our tweens
- We need to ‘let the conversation flow- our goal is not to get answers as it is to be a safe refuge they can approach.
- Kids do value our input – they yearn for us parents to be a part of their lives
LET’S NOT FORGET BEING A PARENT IS STILL THE TOUGHEST JOB THERE IS!
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