When I was the mother of toddlers, I marveled at moms of tweens and teenagers. They seemed to live in a different world. I couldn’t quite imagine the journey that would take me from where I was to where they were. Now, as the mom of three tweens, I realize that we arrived at this point one day at a time, bit by bit, shift by shift. My kids are growing up. Yours are too. And each day their focus shifts a tiny bit.
They move a little more toward friends, a little more toward school, a little more toward outside interests. As our kids grow, their world naturally expands to include new influences. Our role as parents does not diminish in importance, but it does change in how we relate to our kids. We need to find new ways to solidify connections and foster intimacy at new stages. Here are a few ideas on how.
Put time on the calendar.
With busy schedules and multiple demands on their time, older kids are less likely to request special time with mom and dad. They may not even think they need it. But time is a precious gift we can give our kids at any age. Tweens especially need guidance as they begin to navigate greater responsibilities and more complex relationships. Let your older kids know they are still a priority for you. Set aside time on your calendar and stick to it. Block out sections of twenty or thirty minutes to do whatever your child chooses. Block Friday or Saturday evenings for dinner and game night or a movie. Commit to keeping these times distraction-free by putting cell phones and computers away. Even if you can’t commit the same amount of time each week, give what you can. When our kids see us prioritize them and set aside time solely to nurture our relationships with them, the positive impact can be surprisingly strong. Make sure your kids know that you are available and interested in their lives and prove it by making time for them.
Keep it simple.
Parents’ desire to remain relevant with their tweens and teens is so strong we’ve become a caricature. We bungle the latest slang phrases and try to host the coolest gatherings. But our kids don’t need us to be trendy, they need us to be ourselves: connected and nurturing as always. Give yourself a break from being hip and focus on the relationship. Eat a meal together, read the same book or watch a movie together and compare impressions. We are not our children’s best friend, we are their parent. We need to offer them safety and security as their mentor and guide.
Make your home a haven.
Open a window to your child’s world by finding ways to observe them in their leisure time and with their friends. You don’t need to be a Pinterest-perfect host. Pizza and a movie at your house is a great way to keep your children connected to home even as they expand their horizons to new people and influences. Offer to drive carpool if you can, host a few barbecues or game nights a year, and welcome your kids’ friends with a warm smile. Kids spend time where they feel wanted and cared for. Make your home that place, and bring the outside world in where you can observe and learn.
Open a window to your child’s world by finding ways to observe them in their leisure time and with their friends.
Remember your kids still need—and want—you.
Conventional wisdom would have us believe our kids don’t need us as they grow, and they aren’t interested besides. We laugh and lament about the difficulty of raising teens, bracing ourselves for an onslaught of struggle. But studies indicate adolescents want their parents’ input more than ever. Kids crave our influence, benefit from our wisdom, and flourish under our tender care. They may be taller and more independent than they once were, but they are still navigating childhood and need our help along the way. Determine in your heart that you and your child will remain close and weather the challenges together.
Tell us! How do you and your tween or teen like to spend time together?