If your kid is between 8 and 12 years old then you've got a Tween and you’ve got your work cut out for you! The Tween phase in a child’s development is not for the faint hearted. Although your child still looks young, he is growing up and becoming more self-aware. You may feel like he’s pushing you away, but he needs you now more than ever.
Here are 9 tips to help you communicate with your Tween so, when he reaches the gnarly teenage years, you’ll have an established, well-balanced parenting dynamic:
Kids have awesome B.S. detectors. They know you well enough to pick up differences in your behavior or attitude. I’m not suggesting breaking down boundaries, but I am suggesting that these developmental years are the time to let your human side show. DO stay open and be honest with your child. DO NOT hide your wisdom, emotions, fears or knowledge. DO lead by example and be an authentic human being who learns from and communicates with others.
Listen To Your Kid
When you talk to your child, keep it short and sweet. I encourage moms to focus on listening to them, rather than talking. Often in the silence, your child will reveal interesting information and tidbits about themselves. Everyone hates a nag (remember your nagging mother?) and it instantly has the reverse effect on your child’s behavior - they will shut down. Also, don’t rush to conclusions about them. Remember that you child is coming into his own. Let him speak first. If you must say no, give reasons why so he understands you’re not being difficult or dismissive.
Go On A Date Together
It may seem like you don’t need to, but it’s crucial to reinforce your love for your child. These development years can be scary for your Tween, so spending time one-on-one together goes a long way. Your date doesn't have to be a mind blowing, million-dollar experience, however, it does need to be just the two of you. Just doing something simple like going for a movie or ice cream will help him feel secure. This one-on-one time will demonstrate it’s okay to be open with you.
Fuel Your Tween’s Needs
I’m a mom of three boys. I remember the early days of playing trucks with them in their playroom and how much they loved it. It wasn’t particularly exciting for me, but it was time well spent with my boys. Now that my boys are older, it’s all about being outside playing ball games on the lawn. Confession: I. Hate. Ball games. There, I said it. But I love my boys more than I hate ball games so I take one for the team (pardon the sports analogy).
Believe it or not, when you sigh you can deal a blow to your Tween’s self-esteem. Sighing can be interpreted as a way to say, “I’m annoyed with you” or “Why are you bothering me with this?” You may sigh out of habit, a subconscious response to a situation, but it can make a pretty big statement without saying a word. It’s fine to legitimately be annoyed. The next time you find yourself in that situation, take a deep breath and respond calmly. Reining it in a little bit will demonstrate you are open to a two-way conversation.
Create A Bedtime Routine (To TALK)
I want to bring you back to the baby and toddler years when you had a scheduled bedtime routine to get your child to the holy grail of bed. Let's resurrect that! That's right, we are bringing back the bedtime routine, but, instead of praying your kid would go the F to sleep, your focus is connecting and talking about the day's events. Have a family meeting and decide upon a mutually agreeable time for a hard electronic stop to talk in bed together.
Love On Them
Hug 'em, love on ‘em, chase after 'em if need be. Don't be afraid to take the lead and keep showing them your love and affection. If you start letting them slowly pull away now, you could lose the strong connection you’ve both worked so hard to achieve. Hugs must never stop!
Bond With Their Friends
You don’t have to be mom to your Tween’s friends, but you should show them the same respect and courtesy you show your own kid. Host play dates and sleepovers, say hello to their friends and show them they’re welcome. Your Tween will thank you for it.
Be in the same space. Be present. Be together. “What is so and so texting you?” “Did you enjoy your morning class?” Also, try to engage over their love of social media, such as “What's your favorite app?” “What level on the game are you?”
Even if you are not talking, your tween will find comfort in knowing you are home, even though he doesn’t want you in his bedroom or near his friends. Being PRESENT will have a profound impact on how he communicates with you.
There is no such thing as perfect parenting, but communication is key to nurturing a long-lasting relationship with your children. Don’t give up!
About Eirene Heidelberger, GITmom
Eirene Heidelberger is a nationally-renowned parenting expert and founder of GITmom (Get It Together, Mom!). Through GITmom’s 7-step method, Eirene empowers mothers and mothers-to-be by teaching a “mom-first” parenting approach. She is the only parenting coach in the country who advocates parenting techniques that puts the mother’s needs center stage.
As a mom of three boys, Eirene has experienced the same overwhelm and anxiety most mothers first feel with their children. Her firsthand experiences inspired her to create GITmom which has been embraced by hundreds of moms around the world.
Eirene is a mom motivator, parenting champion and all-round expert. Find more from Eirene on Facebook or at http://www.gitmom.com.