I have only been the mom of a tween for the last few years (my son is 10) and while it is exciting to watch him grow closer to young adulthood, most days I feel like I have no clue what I am doing! Maybe you can relate? When he was a baby and toddler, I had many questions about feeding, nap schedules, motor skills and milestones. Now that he’s reached the double digits, I feel like a new mom all over again with different types of questions about social media, screen time, choosing the right friends and balancing sports and school.
He has consistently been an easygoing and responsible kid, so I was completely floored when I caught him in a lie recently. There were other things, too. The irrational (it seemed to me) crying when he missed out on time with friends. Always a straight A student, he began struggling with one subject that he couldn’t get the hang of. He was allowed to stay home alone for short time periods and we gave him a cell phone with parental restrictions set, but I continued to worry about setting the appropriate limits on it. He was still my sweet, easygoing kid for the most part, but other times I felt like I barely knew what was going on in his life and I wondered if I was missing the mark on communicating with him somehow. The final straw was when we found out a hurtful comment had been made about by son by a classmate and relayed through another child; my son was deeply hurt by this situation, but did not share with us until we found out from another parent. I realize that friendships are becoming more important to my son, but I know my role as mom is still vital at this age. My son has always been easy to parent, I rarely had to discipline and always felt that I could trust him, but was I letting my own laziness get in the way of our relationship? I resolved to make an effort to improve our communication.
I started by making more one-on-one time with him. Even if I was just running to the Dollar Store, I invited him to go along. We browse the aisles together and chat about life, Minecraft and his favorite players on the KC Chiefs. I will gladly buy him a Powerade or Sonic drink at the end of trip if it means a chat with my kiddo!
Help With Chores
I also ask him to help out around the house. There are days when I don’t think he would leave the basement and his PlayStation if given the choice. But when I ask him to help me out with a few chores, I get the chance to see his face, check in with him about his day and we put away laundry together. I know it may seem like asking him to do chores would push him away, but I have found that when we work on tasks as a team it is a great chance to talk side-by-side.
To open up the lines of communication, I keep the criticism to a minimum as much as possible. We do have rules that are non-negotiable of course. However, when his grades started slipping in math, he shared that he was having trouble understanding division because he had missed a few weeks of class time during quarantine. He agreed to some extra practice problems in the evenings and I could tell he felt more confident in understanding the work. If I had grounded him right away, I may not have discovered he felt that he was behind due to missing class for several weeks.
Respect Each Other
I ask for respect from my son and hope that he knows I will respect him in return! I always remember the advice I heard one time that if you wouldn’t yell at your co-worker for making a mistake or spilling something, why would you yell at your child for those things? There were plenty of times I have not stuck to this rule when I was angry, but I try to model fairness and respect for him with the hope that he will feel comfortable to confide in me when it really counts.
If you are struggling in your relationship with your tween, try to think back and remember the feelings you had as a tween yourself. I can remember the awkwardness and uncertainty like it was yesterday even though it was over 20 years ago for me! There are absolutely challenging times navigating this phase. But trying to be considerate of the age and the stage and showing a little extra kindness goes a long way!