Reconnecting with Your Preteen
As seen on WWL-TV
February 19, 2013
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The preteen years can be a challenge to the parent-child relationship. Your sweet school-age son or daughter may begin to seem moodier, distant, or more affected by the social ups-and-downs of daily life. You want to help and be supportive, but often feel like you say or do the wrong thing. Here are some tips for staying connected to your preteen during this new stage of development:
*Use positive communication and good listening skills. Research shows that parents of 11- to 15 –year-olds express more negativity in their conversations with their kids than in the earlier years. It’s understandable when your child may be expressing a lot of negativity, but try not to let her set the tone for household. When having difficult conversations, try to empathize and ask questions to understand what your child is feeling rather than launching into a lecture. If a child is upset and doesn’t want to talk, then try again later, perhaps when the two of you are engaged in another activity (walking the dog, doing the dishes, driving somewhere together). Try and brainstorm solutions to problems together; if your child feels like he has been given a role in the solution, he is much more likely to cooperate.
*Increase responsibility and independence within limits. A 12-year-old might be ready for a few more chores and few small freedoms, within the limits you set. Give a bit more freedom while establishing a kind of trust contract: if I find you abuse my trust (for example, not using technology appropriately) then there will be a logical consequence until you’ve earned my trust back (such as losing access to technology for a period of time). Remember, preteens ultimately do think parents know what’s best, although they may not say so! And if preteens want more privileges then they should also be expected to have more household responsibilities as well.
*Recognize that when preteens push you away, they still need you. "Leave me alone!” is something parents of adolescents hear, but maybe none of us are ready to hear it at 11 or 12. Sometimes hurt parents react by withdrawing, but this isn’t the solution. A child may be trying to communicate that while she wants some privacy, she doesn’t want you to go too far, either. Support and guidance during this period are important. Try and find some activities to do together that you both enjoy.
For more information, contact The Parenting Center at Children's Hospital at 504-896-9591.