“When it comes to teenagers, once they think you get them, you’ve got them.”Terence Houlihan, M.S. Ed., CRS
In this age of smartphones and social media, forming strong connections with your tween can feel equal parts crucial and impossible. It may seem, at times, that they’re connected to everyone in the entire world except…you. Wasn’t it just days ago that their dimpled hands tugged at our pant legs and begged to be held? When did they stop asking us to play with them?
Navigating the Awkward Tween and Teen Years
As parents of “tweens” (referring to those awkward in-between years of 8-12), it can be difficult to determine how to draw them in, how to help them unplug and remain connected.
One of the greatest gifts of parenthood is that no matter what, your kids are hardwired to love you. Underneath the attitude, behind the rolling eyes, even in between the cutting words, they need your approval and your love. And the good news is, it’s never, ever too late to remind them that they have it.
Top 5 Tried and True Tips on Talking with your Tween
1. Talk a little a lot…and often. Let’s be really honest for a minute, fellow parents. It’s not realistic or fair to expect your children to open up with the big stuff if you don’t take the time to talk with them about the small stuff. Carving out consistent time with your tweens can help conversations flow naturally rather than feeling awkward and forced.
2. Use questions sparingly. Nothing will shut down a conversation quicker than an interrogation aimed at sparking dialog. One intuitive, well-placed question is better than a million little attempts to get words to come out of their mouth.
3. Make the most of car rides. Remember how the rumble of the road and a few soothing songs did the trick when they were in the infant seat? The funny thing is, it can still have the same effect on tweens. While sitting side-by-side rather than face-to-face, tweens can feel comfortable enough to open up and conversation may result.
4. Get your game face ready. Note to self…when the kids finally open up, don’t act so surprised! Between the ages of 10 and 18, adolescents perceive emotion quite differently from adults.
In a Harvard research study, neuropsychologist Deborah Todd-Yurgelun discovered that when processing images of facial expressions, tweens and teens are more likely to interpret fear, concern, and surprise as anger. The reason for this is that while adults rely on the frontal cortex to interpret information while tweens and teens use their amygdala, the epicenter for instinctual or “gut” reactions.
5. Respect their right to silence. It may seem counterintuitive to think of silence as a means of achieving effective communication, but give it a try! Allowing your tween to feel at ease in your presence could make conversations more meaningful and pressure-free. Your silence tells them that you can be a safe landing place when they’re ready.
Keeping the Connections Strong
While your tweens are growing and developing, they’re looking to you for approval, for guidance, and for love more than it may seem. Giving some thought to your approach and using some of these tips will keep those connections strong. The journey into adulthood is not easy, but you can take steps each day to reassure your tweens (and yourself!) that you’ve got them.
For more parenting resources and to find out how a Christian-based education can serve you and your tween on their journey into adulthood, please contact the Bethesda Christian Schools Admissions Team at (317) 858-2823. We partner with parents in building the strongest foundation for their child’s future.