Talking with Your Tween

. February 18, 2013.

Tantrums and potty training – remember when you thought your child’s toddler years were tough? Now, as the parent of a tween, you may find yourself longing for those early years.
The term “tween” refers to a preadolescent, a child age 10-13. This time is a challenging transition for both children and their parents. While tweens struggle with their changing identity and need for independence, many parents feel like they’re just along for the ride, unable to help or, even, talk with their own child.
No matter how much you may feel like your tween doesn’t want you around, the fact is that he or she needs you. It may not be easy to facilitate communication, but talking with your tween is one of the best ways to know what’s on their mind and how you can help them through this time.

Lead by example
When your child was little, you knew how important it was to watch your language and look both ways before crossing the street. That’s because your child picked up on everything you did – good and bad. The tween years are no different. If you yell, you may find your teen responding in the same manner. Show respect for your child in all circumstances. Be open and honest with them and they’ll be more likely to act in the same way with you.

Be consistentThe tween years are a time of change: bodies change, values change, friends change. Being consistent with your tween is an important way to reinforce expectations, show dependability and give a sense of security. Be consistent in your rules, discipline, reactions, and words.

Remember what life was like when you were a tween? Maybe not, but at least try to consider what it may be like to be in your child’s shoes. Listen to your tween. And I mean really listen – with your full attention. Sometimes a child just needs to vent or make sense of his or her feelings. Resist the urge to find a solution to problems. Instead, help your tween express and understand his or her thoughts, feelings and values.

Promote a healthy lifestyleIt’s difficult to handle daily stress when basic needs aren’t met. Encourage your tween to get enough sleep, eat well and be physically active. Taking care of his or her body will help your tween function at his or her very best and better handle the environment around them.

Encourage communication
Remember, the first step is usually the hardest. Make communication easier on your tween by taking that first, challenging step. Initiate discussions by asking open-ended questions and connecting through movies, books, news, and others’ experiences. And don’t just talk about the big issues. Being open about smaller issues will help your tween feel more comfortable talking with you when the time comes to discuss more important issues.

Recognize your tween’s need
for independence
Your tween is discovering a new world of feelings, thoughts, values, and challenges. Give your child just enough space that he or she gains a sense of independence. However, you are still the parent. Finding a healthy balance of control is important for your child to learn on his or her own with you right beside them.