‘Breathe just breathe,’ I keep telling myself, but communicating with my tween can be hard work. I seriously wonder how we’ll both survive the next few years without killing each other.
And I’m definitely not alone, the tween years are notoriously challenging for parents. As an informed mum continually striving to do better and be better, I’ve consulted the experts, read the books, and found the thinking that works. I call it Happy Parenting.
Happy Parenting focuses on love and connection, being kind to yourself, being informed and striving to be your best at all times.
I want my children to feel that love and connection and I want that in return. This does not mean there are no rules, it means: being there, showing up every day, every time – no matter what.
Blossoming in the tween years:
- Tweens and teenagers need to be heard – Tricky as it can be, even with a million other things to do, I must stop and focus entirely on my child.
- Kids notice everything – I must keep my reactions in check; teenagers are smart, they watch and copy our behaviours. So if I don’t want my words coming back to me, I need to ‘stop, think, then act’.
- I will become less important – As adults, we need to get over it. Teens want to hang out with their friends. It is what they are supposed to do. What I can do is invite their mates over, make sure there is food available and know that kindness and warmth in my home brings the kids around.
- I must set limits – When I establish boundaries, it shows my kids that I care. I remember how the children whose parents let them do anything were never home. I’m convinced they wanted to be at my place because that’s where my mum, dad, or family members were. By setting limits and being there, it helped show they cared.
- I need to be there – I always let my kids know that I love them no matter what, that I’ll stand behind them or in front of them (whichever they need), until they are ready to stand on their own. I encourage them to stand independently and tall, but I try not to force them.
Protecting my tween:
- I make mistakes – We all make mistakes, so the best we can do is be kind to ourselves. Our kids will see that we are real. Every parent and every parenting expert has a moment in time or two that they wish had never happened. We are all human. We just have to keep reminding ourselves of this fact. In addition, we must of course apologise when we are wrong.
- I must let go – I can’t be there all the time to protect my child. They are going to do something silly, after all I did. I turned out okay, didn’t you? We have to put the onus on ourselves to know what they are facing, to keep ourselves informed, and to talk to them at every opportunity. Have you heard of ‘teachable moments’? We can use them, we can ask our teenagers:
- Is this happening to any of your friends?
- Do you know this person?
- Are you concerned this could happen to you?
- What would you have done?
- How do you feel about this?
Only once we’ve heard their viewpoint, have we earned the right to share ours.
- I can still guide them – They won’t always make the best decisions; their friends, emotions, and events all play a role. We can teach our kids as they go. We can help them work through their mistakes. You can start now if you aren’t already doing this. Our job is to supply the tools for good decision-making, teach them how to approach things, think things through and then make an informed decision.
Connecting no matter the age:
- We must know our kids well – We need to tune in to what is happening for them, to them and with them.
- We need to show up.
- We have to show our teens that we love them by what we do.
- We should tell our children we love them and tell them often - Even when they don’t want to hear from us at all.
- We must be informed – The more we know the more prepared we are.
- We should expect the unexpected
- We have to be the parent – Challenging as it might be, it is up to us to be the parent and act like the adult at all times.
And so I breathe, just breathe in the knowledge my children feel love and connection, and that I continue to receive that in return as we work together through these tween years.
As Neil Barringham says:
‘The grass isn’t greener on the other side, the grass is greener where you water it”. Start today, water the garden where your child plays.