Heather here from FamilyVolley.com, and today we are talking pre-teens. Parenting a pre-teen is tough work. Today we are sharing some Strategies for Thriving in Junior High School.
Why is there so much stress for moms? The pre-teen years are filled with growing pains. Changes and challenges and new experiences that can be painful and hard. When our kids hurt, we hurt and that is stressful. Another major reason for the extra stress is that as moms, up until this point, we could fix everything that went wrong with our kids. Once they hit the junior high years we can’t fix everything and we cant protect them from all the challenges and hurt.
Before we get into strategies to help navigate these years, understand our kids are seeking three key things during this time. They want independence, are seeking an identity, and want to be accepted. If we can keep those three things in mind, they will help us understand why our kids do what they do (because they will make some decisions that are a little cra-cra :)) and it will also help us know how to be there for them to support and parent.
Navigating these years is vital to our future relationship with our kids, our sanity and the sanity of our family. Here are strategies to help.
Don’t take the Independence Personally.
Our children are seeking independence. Just because they are looking to spread their wings and see if they can fly, doesn’t mean that they don’t love us or enjoy spending time with us anymore. In fact, research shows that kids this age want time with their families. We can make the mistake of taking their search for independence as disobedience, or we guilt trip them about wanting to be with friends or try new things.
Instead we should be grateful that they want to try and make decisions on their own. We need to celebrate their strength and willingness. We need to be glad we have taught them and hopefully prepared them for these new challenges.
Help them find their identity.
Up to this point, much if not all of our children’s identity has been tied to us, to our family. Now all of a sudden they are out looking for other identities. They will try to find this through activities and social groups. If they don’t find a group where they are accepted and feel welcome, they will keep looking until they do, which often leads to getting mixed up with kids who might not be making choices we agree with.
We need to help them find their identity by exposing them to lots of good options. Let them try new things and when they find something they like, support them.
Use your scapegoats.
During this time of life our children are looking to gain independence from us. Which means that they aren’t always keen on listening to all our opinions and suggestions. To alleviate some of the contention use the people around you as your scapegoats. For example, if conversations about school and homework are hard, use the school counselor as your scapegoat. Let them talk to your child about all those things. Your child will be more prone to listen and there won’t be any fighting at your house.
With our son who is almost 14 our scapegoat is my dad, his grandpa. My dad will pick him up and they will run errands or get something to eat and he will talk to him. Saying all the same things I want to say, but our son is extra receptive because it isn’t me saying it.
Be a Master Listener.
Our pre teens are seeking acceptance from us and from their peers. With us, they feel accepted when they are heard and understood. To really hear them we have to actually listen. This means we don’t judge as we listen, we don’t think about all the wisdom we are going to fill them with the second they stop talking, and it means we stop trying to fix the problem.
What should we do? First we stop and suspend. We put our words and judgements on hold and we stay quite and just listen. That’s all. When it IS our turn to talk we do two things: we empathize AND we mirror (or reiterate). “So you don’t like Suzy anymore because she told James you liked him? I can see how that would be frustrating.”
By empathizing and reiterating you will invite your tween to keep talking and say more and more. Before you know it you will have lots of information. Every time they give you more info (or data), reiterate and empathize.
The next rule: do not offer advice until they ask for it. I know what you are thinking, they never want my advice. You will be surprised. As they feel more and more understood and accepted, they will start to want your advice. Pretty soon you will hear, “so mom, what should I do?” Now is when you impart your pearls of wisdom. Now is when you offer your advice and solutions.
Vary their friendships.
Friends start to become of great importance during the pre teen years. They can quickly become part of our child’s identity. The problem is that these friendships are perfect one day and horrible the next. Our kids go from best friends to best enemies in a 5 minute passing period between classes. When friendships go South, our children’s identity, self worth, and esteem can go with it.
To keep this from happening we need to encourage them to have friends all over the place. They need to have friends at school, at church, in the community, at soccer, at band, everywhere. That way when one friendship is on the rocks, there are plenty of others that are working and supportive and positive. Plus it ensures that our children don’t feel lonely as they try these new experiences and navigate the new situations. We are not telling our children who to be friends with, we are encouraging them to have friends everywhere.
Stay tuned for part 2 as we talk about 5 more strategies we can use to parent our pre teen. By the time we are done, hopefully you feel less stress and more hope.
Until then… Share with us the things you do to make your relationship with your pre teen stronger? What is working in your house?
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