If you are the parent of a tween, you may be noticing some changes in your child that you would like to address. In this phase of a tween’s life it is best to remind yourself to pick your battles, because this “in-between” period is temporary. Constant battling can sometimes shutoff the communication between you and your tween, but it is in this period of their life that they need your guidance the most. It is crucial to find a way to communicate effectively with your tween, because it is also a highly important stage of development and learning for them. To make the journey through tweenhood as smooth as possible, look to guide your tween over emotional speed bumps and through challenging situations, such as peer pressure or bullying.
Here are some ways to help your child in throughout this transition:
Create an environment of open communication in your home
Sometimes tweens will endure their growing pains in silence because they don’t think we understand what they are going through. They forget that we, as parents, were once their age and may have experienced similar situations when we were tweens ourselves. Granted, there may also be some issues that we can’t relate to, so we will occasionally need our tweens to tell us exactly how they are feeling. During this transition it is important for parents to lend an ear to really listen to what they are saying. When responding, try to phrase your responses as a way of giving knowledge by sharing a similar experience that you had when you were their age. If possible take the tone of lecturing out of your responses. Tweens receive information better when it comes from a place of understanding, empathy, and experience. It’s harder to reach tweens when they feel as if statements, orders, and directives are being given to them without taking in consideration what they are really trying to convey or what they are really feeling. As you talk with your tween, try to read between the lines of what he or she is saying and pay attention to behavioral shifts. You can also communicate with body language. If your tween looks like he or she could use a hug or a pat on the back, do it without announcing your intentions. It may be just what he or she needs in the moment.
Teach your tween how to articulate his or her emotions
The sentences “I feel ___ because ____” or “When ____ did ___ I felt___” can help tweens organize their thoughts and feelings when they are having trouble articulating them. If you can help your child learn how to identify and describe his or her feelings, it will likely provide your tween with more courage when experiencing new conflicts or challenging situations later down the road. This process will also make it easier on the parent to decipher what is really going on in the life or lives of their tweens.
Give your tween space to flex their independence
On the way through tweenhood, your tween may start to exhibit more control over his or own life. He or she may want to spend less time with you in order to spend more time hanging out with friends. Don’t take this personally. Instead, observe how your tween behaves when you allow him or her to make plans and decisions. Taking this step back will reinforce a sense of trust between the two of you and may boost your tween’s confidence as well. Of course, be prepared to step in if it appears that your tween has chosen – or is being pressured – to engage in risky activities. You should also make it a habit of knowing your tweens friends and their parents. You will feel more comfortable giving your tween more freedom if you trust the company that they keep.
Walk your tween through role-playing scenarios
Create hypothetical situations where your tween may be pressured or bullied to participate in harmful activities. Observe how your tween reacts and how he or she arrives at a decision. Remind your tween about the power of the word “No” and encourage him or her to tap into his or her intuition. If it feels wrong, it probably is. Give your tween a way out, by reminding them that if asked to participate in harmful activities, they can say things like “I can’t make it, my parents have friends in town and we are going to dinner”, or make up an activity with your parents that involve the tween being at home.
Make sure your tween can recognize signs of bullying
Embolden your tween to speak up and not just be a bystander if he or she sees a friend or peer being bullied. Remind your tween to take action and seek the help of someone of authority, like a teacher or parent. Teach your tween that being proactive sends a positive message in the fight against bullying.
Is there anything you’d add to the list above? What are some other ways you’ve helped your tween grow into a well-rounded teen?
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About Blaise Brooks
Blaise is a mother of one, caregiver of two, accountant and community advocate. Blaise is also a contributor to The Five Moms blog on StopMedicineAbuse.org, working to spread the word about cough medicine abuse with other parents. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.