Help me, Julie! My daughter is getting ready to start 6th grade, and, all of a sudden, she seems like a totally different kid. Overnight she seemed to change from my little girl to full-blown teenager!! It’s making my head spin! Is this normal?
Picture this … a 12-year-old girl proudly bats her mascara’ed-lashes at the cute boy in her English class. Hours later, she shrieks that, “Ew! He put a booger on my desk. He’s so gross!.” In the evening, she thinks about the other boy she has been chatting with on her forbidden SnapChat account before falling asleep under her bubblegum pink comforter surrounded by all her stuffed animals.
Tweens and early teens often seem dramatic, irrational, and scream-y in one moment and cheerful, giddy, and loving the next. They have a deep need for independence and for tender care. Many parents shake their heads wondering if their child is crazy or possessed.
Let me assure you, they are neither. Rather, this is normal. Actually, this is your new normal.
Tween-to-teens are simultaneously complicated and interesting. One minute, they can be funny and helpful; the next moment, moody and rebellious. They are beginning to form new relationships, understand their changing bodies, and becoming more independent. These social, emotional, and physical changes have a direct effect on the quality of your relationship. A lot of patience and proactivity is needed to maintain the new normal relationship with your child.
Here are five strategies to help your relationship with your tween-to-teen evolve successfully:
Know When to Step in and Step Back. The adolescent years are a time for your child to separate from you and develop his or her own identity. If you micromanage your tween-to-teen’s activities and limit their privacy, you will push him away. Simultaneously, if you provide too much freedom, your child could make poor choices or participate in risky behavior. For a happier, healthier relationship with your child, it is necessary to find the balance between stepping in and stepping back.
Get to Know Your Tween-to-Teen’s Friends. Your child’s friends are a reflection of your child. When you make time for positive interactions with the friends, you are telling your child “they matter to me because you matter to me.” Take the time to meet your child’s friends. Invite them over for pizza, take them all out to the coffee shop or invite them over for dinner. Doing so will help build a foundation for a successful relationship with your child.
Understand Friendly vs Friend. A parent plays many roles during the adolescent years: teacher, coach, cheerleader, advocate, disciplinarian, guide; a friend isn’t one of those roles. Friends are groups of people that share similar ideas and viewpoints. More often than not, children and adults have very different viewpoints about what they should be doing – even about what’s right and wrong. Rather than be your child’s friend, just be friendly. Friendly is loving, caring, and responsible. Become friends at this point will only damage your relationship as it blurs the lines of what the parent-child relationship is during these years.
Build Trust. If you want to build a strong relationship with your child, take steps to earn their trust. Your child needs to believe what you say and what you do. You must be credible and honest. Adolescents can spot fibs and lies in the blink of an eye. Be honest and upfront with your child. If you don’t know something, ‘fess up. Ask their opinions and really listen to their answers. Invest time and energy in being the person you want your child to become.
Spend Quality Time Together. The best way to build a relationship is to spend quality time together. The quantity of time may diminish as your teen spends more time with friends than family. Quality time allows you to participate in your tween-to-teen’s world. Play videos games with your daughter or watch YouTube with your son. Better yet, go for a walk to talk about current events or listen to his dreams for the future. The more you show an interest in your child, the more he or she will want to spend time with you.
Now, it’s your turn. In the comments section below, please share one thing that surprised you about the tween-to-teen years. And, if you have a question about your tween or teen, please send ‘em my way to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it on social media using the hashtag #whattodowhen.
Until next time, remember that while it may feel a little scary and uncomfortable right now, but this stage will become normal as things can be; it really is your new normal.
Until next time… wishing you peace, love, and gummy bears. 🙂
P.S. If you’re looking for more ways to understand your tween or teen, our What to Do When Insider’s Circle is coming soon … just in time for the new school year.