Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The not-so-obvious needs of a preteen
It's easy to assume that once your little ones have grown into big kids and less dependent on you for their every need, they can just be given orders and left on their own. As long as you provide food on the table, clean clothes, sheets and towels, make sure they do their homework and don't tear up the house, you feel like your work is done. But you're not even close. Your job as a mother is not to ensure they can eat and clean up after themselves, or even that they bring home good grades from school. Their need for you to be interested and involved in their development is as important, and even more so, as before.
Here are some pre-teens parenting tips:
1. You will frequently find that they love to talk about total nonsense. Don't just dismiss it as total nonsense! They are going though a process in which their minds are processing more information and trying to sort it all out as they are beginning to understand more of the adult world. Let them talk, listen, and comment on their ideas - even when they seem crazy.
2. Push other duties aside from time to time to focus 100% on them. You will be richly rewarded. Play a board game, go to a museum together, ride bikes and go out for treats just for fun. Among the odd things they think and want to talk about, you will find jewels of information about their doubts or fears or ambitions that you can help them understand. These are bits of information that they would never tell you if you just ask them those ignorant grown-up questions like, "What are your fears?" or, "What are your ambitions?" Everyone knows the only answer to those dumb questions are, "Idunno."
3. Laugh with them and enjoy their ridiculous ideas instead of treating them like they're stupid. (You may never dream of calling your child such a thing, but you can make them feel it by the way you treat them.) Remember what it was like at their age and how awkward it felt to be in that transition between little child to teenager. Tell them funny stories of things you did at 12 to show them that you aren't so different. Bringing up those old memories will help you have more empathy for what they're going through.
4. By your actions, not just your words, let them know that they can still come to you for anything. This is invaluable - soon they will be going through changes in their bodies and they'll need to know they can trust you to understand the strange things happening to their thoughts and feelings. If you have made it clear to them that you think their rambling thoughts are a waste of time, they definitely will not feel confident to tell you how confused they feel as they grow.
5. Treasure this time while they are still talkative and openly dependent on you. Prepare yourself, because your little one will soon become another creature altogether when puberty hits with all the hormones, mood swings and insecurities about their sudden changes. Well-adjusted teens grow from well-loved preteens.
Preparing for Adolescence: Caution Changes Ahead