Raising kids is can sometimes feel like free falling. You may feel you have a plan, but the winds change and you are required to make immediate adjustments to manage the new terrain.
The transition from elementary years to teens is affectionately known as "tween": Between childhood and adolescence. When our children reach the tween years, around nine years old, we begin to notice many changes in their interactions and demeanor towards, well, pretty much everything.
They begin to have thoughts and opinions differing from ours and they may make choices that have us scratching our heads in confusion. Interestingly, many parents continue to interact with their child in the same manner they did when their child was younger- Enforcing old rules; having the same expectations; demanding the same behavior or interactions they did when they were in elementary school.
Successfully parenting tweens (and later teens) is realizing that we are working with and connecting to an entirely different human from the one we knew when they were younger. The things we expected or demanded may be met with questions or resistance and if we take that personally we will be setting ourselves up for long term never ending power struggles that can diminish the growth of a healthy relationship with our children.
Here are a few meaningful tips that will allow you to to grow and adjust to the ever changing landscape of parenting tweens:
Let go of what was and really see what's right in front of you. Re-evaluate what your tween child is capable of, compared to what they were capable of in the previous years. Who is this person in front of you? How are they different from the little person who was in front of you what feels like a blink ago? What are they asking for now from you as a parent? What is it time to let go of? Allow them to grow and meet their new capabilities.
Recognize the growth and allow that to guide their new possible privileges. Whether it's managing their own homework load independently; or begin to hang out with different types of friends. There will be mistakes and errors that will open the door for consultation with you as their parent. Being open and available for consultation with respect for the journey of learning new skills will allow them to learn by trial and error instead of being forced to learn on someone else's time frame. What they are able to learn they are able to retain/ what you tell them sticks with more difficulty.
Honor their privacy. Tweens begin to crave separation from their parents and desire having relationships and interactions that their parents are not privy to. Negotiating places where this feels safe while still keeping connected to their overall lives is a necessary task and one that requires finesse.
Respect Their Opinions. Ask and allow their opinions (especially when they are different than yours). Parents are often used to seeing their children mirror their own opinions about things. Until this time, our opinions are really the only ones they've been exposed to. Middle school is a time when they begin to have more and more exposure to different views. Respecting their interest in exploring other views is vital to their growth.
Space to make mistakes. Mistakes are the greatest way we grow and learn. Although this can be uncomfortable, we must lean in to our discomfort or we will risk crippling their willingness to take risks. Stepping in can happen when the same mistake repeats itself. Then it may mean they are actually not ready for this particular task of independence.
Discover their unique strengths. Love their strengths, even if they don't necessarily make sense to you. If you grew up as an athlete but you see your child thrives within an arts program, acknowledge and support that budding interest.
Parenting tweens is our greatest opportunity to allow our children to cross the bridge into adulthood on their own power and success. Allowing and expecting mistakes and learning from them makes the inevitable journey all the more interesting.