Preteen years … we have all been through it personally, and we now find ourselves parenting our own children as they experience it. Some of the most important and impressionable moments of our own lives occurred in this “in-between” stage of life. Helping our preteen(s) navigate through their own explorations and discovery during this season of life can sometimes be complicated and a bit stressful at times.
If you are parenting a preteen (11-14ish) for the first time ever or you are a veteran and have already had multiple children and find yourself simply going through this stage again, I’m going to give you three nuggets of wisdom that will help you regardless of your parenting tenure.
Talk It Out
Typically, your preteen is thinking, “You don’t know what I’m going through,” and “You really don’t get it.” It’s hard for preteens to shift their perception of us from the superhero parent that they once saw us as and understand that we are human. We were once also preteens and went through the same challenges they are going through. It’s okay to sit them down and share your vulnerable years and stories.
Your growing children are not sure how to talk through their feelings themselves. Often, they start arguments with other siblings and even you. But the arguments are not the issue, it’s what they cannot express that is. The new feelings they find themselves experiencing bubble up and have to go somewhere. In my opinion, it’s much better out than in.
Your same sweet kids are really still there. I have four children, and now that my eldest two are thriving adults with babies of their own, I have a lot of experience to glean from as I now raise my younger two (daughter-12, son-14). Open and honest communication about feelings really does help. This sort of dialogue can begin by asking as simple a question as, “Why are you doing and saying _____?”
Trust Your Intuition
Some of us might question whether or not our preteen would even want to talk about feelings. Trust me on this one, they really do. Even if they don’t know it before they begin to open up. You know our women’s intuition? Our Intuitive Self? This is where this comes in. I cannot stress this enough. Always follow your intuition. It’s always right and will lead to a solution. So, if you feel that you need to know more about your preteen/new teen or that they are struggling (any age for that matter), you are on to something and should explore it.
Show Your Preteen That the Glass is Half Full
I am a glass half full kind of person. I will always see the good in each situation and person first. This has served me very well through over 26 years of motherhood. It is important to also teach our children this model of mentality so they can enter adulthood with positivity setting their cruise control. The best way to show them that the glass is half full is to lead by example.
A great example of how to apply this “glass half full” mentality is when your once adoring child starts challenging everything you say and ask of them. You find yourself asking, “Why?!” The answer there is simple … because they can. A typical younger child (for the most part) will listen. Remember, you are still their “superhero.” When they realize they also have their own personal authority, the tides shift. They seek to figure out what this means and challenging your is usually how they begin that self-discovery.
You may notice that they are getting a little snarky with you too. Why do I bring this up? Because if you look at the big picture and take a step back, you realize your preteen/new teens just want to be heard. They want to be helped, and this is a great opportunity for you to guide them in the right direction. In their minds, in order to be heard, they sometimes feel like they have to do something to get attention, the kind of “let’s argue and debate a situation,” attention. They have feelings too and, right now, they may not understand them. Our job is to help them.
Know that implementing this advice might not be easy. With the mixture of hormones and emotions, there may be crying. There may even be screaming. But this is all good because you are creating a dialogue with your child. You are creating solutions, coping mechanisms, and helping build their own self-awareness together. The best way to do that is to simply ask the questions and, most importantly, to listen. Straight up ask and listen.