If youâ€™re the parent of a tween, you may look at parents of younger kids, out for a walk at the mall or on their way to school, and see the little ones willingly reach for Mom or Dadâ€™s handâ€¦and cry a little on the inside.Â You may find yourself butting heads with your 10 year old and think, what happened to the little guy who was easily distracted by a hug and a game of Uno?Â Gone are the days when you begged the kids to go play in the other room because you needed some peace and quiet!Â Now youâ€™re the one being shooed out of the room.Â Sigh.Â We know theyâ€™re growing up, but did it have to happen so soon??Â We typically expect teens to be much more connected to and interested in their friends than in their parents.Â But we need to not give up on them, because friends are not a good replacement for parents.Â We need to stay connected, even if that connection evolves, so that we can continue parenting and leading our kids.Â And that evolution starts well before they actually hit the teen years.
Step one: spend some good time together.Â Between homework and racing kids to activities, it can be easy to become disconnected.Â Start by making sure that not every interaction you have with them is a negative one!Â If the only time you really seem to have their attention is when youâ€™re disciplining them, youâ€™ve got a problem on your hands.Â A few kind words in the morning, leaving little love notes for each other, a little chat over tea in the evening, interesting discussions at the dinner table, and turning off the TV and the electronics during all those windows take little time but can pay back big dividends in a relationship.Â It doesnâ€™t have to be anything big, but create some good times together. Building in regular time with you and/or as a family â€“ weekly game nights, perhaps lessons in a sport you can do as together – helps to give you all something in common.
Spend time getting to know your kidsâ€™ friends.Â If you donâ€™t know who your tweenâ€™s best friend is, make a point of learning, pronto.Â Including friends in some of your fun family outings is generally painless and informative (and may make your tween more interested in participating!).Â And as far as that goes, find out more of your tweenâ€™s other â€śfavouritesâ€ť.Â Nothing makes a kid sigh in exasperation louder than having his parent go on about his favourite food/tv show/singer/movie, when the kid has already moved on and has a new favourite.Â Donâ€™t get hung up on who you think your child is; you might be clinging to an idea thatâ€™s outdated, which might lead him to feel that you really donâ€™t get him at all.Â Be curious about your kids and their evolving ideas and tastes.Â Itâ€™s these little things that help kids to feel as though youâ€™re really on their side, and that youâ€™re okay with the independence theyâ€™re developing.
Your child is turning into an adult, so donâ€™t be afraid to change the way you relate to him or her.Â Share more of yourself; talk about your day, what your â€śfavouritesâ€ť are, what youâ€™d really like to do over the next year.Â Iâ€™m not saying you should talk to her like you would your best friend, but you might be pleasantly surprised by the insight and personality thatâ€™s developing in your not-so-little one.Â And the relationship you cultivate now will keep you closer and more connected in a few years when sheâ€™s just that much older.