STAYING CONNECTED WITH YOUR TWEEN
As your child hits the preteen years (10 - 12 years), you may think that parenting her can be quite a challenge. Everything (discipline, homework, school, family time) is renegotiated. The pressures of the peer groups intensify and the need for more independence increases. However, it is essential for tweens to feel they have a secure nest as they start new experiences in an exciting, but scary world. Maintaining a strong bond with your preteen while encouraging her to take healthy risks will help your child navigate these years.
Here are a few tips to positive parent your tween:
1. Stay connected. For instance, having dinner with your child every night or as much as possible is a good way to talk about her day. Another option is to spend 15 minutes at bedtime when it is more grounding and intimate. The goal is to schedule regular alone time with each parent so that your child gets an opportunity to open up about what happens in her life. If you listen closely and adopt a collaborative approach, then your tween will feel safe emotionally to share her inner world with you.
2. Re-evaluate your ideas about discipline. As your child grows up, some techniques will stop working. As soon as your child says: “You cannot make me”, then the power-based punishment strategies become ineffective. You will never win a power struggle. Maintaining a strong bond based on reciprocal love and respect is the most useful tool to get your preteen to follow your rules.
3. Be aware of the effects of hormones. Your child’s body is changing, creating mood swings, distractibility, competitiveness, and preoccupation with sex. Like toddlers, your tween can experience full-blown tantrums without even understanding the situation. When it happens, let your child know that you see how upset she is. Then, give her time to put herself together before discussing the issue further. Your tween does not necessarily understand her mood. Once she has calmed down, listen to her, acknowledge her perspective, even if you do not agree with her position, and work collaboratively toward a win/win situation.
4. Pay attention to the impact of popular culture. Tweens want to feel grown up, so they naturally mimic adult popular culture. They want to fit in with their friends, but they rely on their parents to keep them safe and let them know what is age-appropriate or not. They need you to enforce strict rules about Internet use or what movies are appropriate. Preteens want and need your guidance, even if they cannot show it.
The tween years can be difficult to journey through. However, with your strong emotional support and firm, yet age appropriate boundaries, your preteen can thrive and get ready to move toward her teen years.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.