Something happens when our kids becomes a tweens, a subtle shift in the force.
Sure, there’s the dramatic emotions and grunts and push back on rules, but for most parents, it is the loss of connection that hurts our hearts the most.
We miss the hugs when they walk through the door and the snuggles on the couch watching a movie. We wish for the days when they asked us to play a game or make cookies together. We long for kisses at bedtime and early morning requests to hop into our bed.
And it’s frustrating when tweens start shutting down all the communication channels. One-word answers become the norm. Bedrooms (with the door shut) become their favorite place. Technology takes over.
Things don’t get any better as they move from tween to teen, and their peers become their priority.
That means the tone you set in the tween years—and the parenting habits and rules you implement—is important.
As much as you may want (and wish and hope and pray) to keep things the same, if you really want to stay connected to your child, you’re going o have to adapt.
5 Simple Ways To Build A Solid Bond With Your Tweens That Will Last
Have clear family rules regarding technology.
Phones, video games, YouTube, social media, etc. are a central part of today’s world. Regardless of what your personal feelings are about technology, it is an integral part of our kids’ lives. However, it does not need to be a distraction or fracture your relationship with your child. Many parents set up clear rules about technology usage to ensure the family stays connected. It may include limiting screen time, no phones at the table or in the car, or perhaps even technology-free days.
The key is that this rule needs to apply to the entire family. Tweens/teens often get upset when parents are constantly on their case about technology usage, yet won’t adhere to their own guidelines.
Instead, moms and dads need to help kids discover alternatives to technology. That may include watching a movie together (tween choice), encouraging a hobby, listening to audio books, etc.
Many parents who successfully navigate the teen years claim that embracing their child’s technology usage instead of fighting it also helped them to connect. This means that sometimes you may get your kid to open up via text instead of a face-to-face conversation or getting a conversation started by discussing Fortnite (or even playing it.) Be open minded about what your child finds enjoyable, and use that as a stepping stone to staying connected.
Have a standing date.
One of the hardest things to deal with as your kids grow up is when they start choosing their friends over you. Add to that the busy schedules and academic commitments of our big kids, and weeks can go by without having a real conversation with your adolescent.
Setting up a standing date with your tween is something you can carry on until they move out of your home. It could be something as simple as a Sunday morning Dunkin’ run to Friday pizza night, but make sure you commit to it. One mom I know with a teenage daughter used to make her daughter go to the grocery store and Target with her each week. She claims she got more communication out of those trips than she did all week.
It’s important to remain flexible, however. Don’t freak out if your child procrastinated on a project and has to work through Sunday dinner or if you miss a coffee date because of a soccer tournament. This will only make your son or daughter resent the time. Instead, find a way to sneak a few minutes in by bringing a drink to your child while they are studying or a FroYo date instead of pizza night. It’s more about being available to your tween than anything else
Get closer by teaching them to be self-sufficient.
Once, I walked into a friend’s house and noticed she had post-it notes all over for her three sons.
“Run whites on hot with 1/4 cup of bleach.”
“Cook chicken on 375 for 30 minutes.”
“This shirt needs to go to the dry cleaner.”
She doesn’t do these things because she doesn’t have time (she’s crazy busy but is a very involved parent), but instead she finds that watching her boys become independent seems to go hand in hand with them becoming more responsible–and enjoyable to be around. She explained that once they knew she wasn’t going to do all these chores for them, they started wanting to learn how to do them right.
They now spend time in the kitchen together making meatballs and taco dip, and then she lets them have their friends over to watch football or soccer games. Brilliant!
Buy a pool table (or a foosball table or dart board, etc.)
Another friend recently bought a foosball table for her husband’s 45th birthday. Her husband liked it, but it was the reaction of her two tweens that made the gift worthwhile.
The kids will often ask her or her husband to play so they can improve their skills. And mini “tournaments” with their friends have become a regular event at their home on the weekends—sometimes they even let her and her husband come watch.
It can be hard to find something that the entire family enjoys, but when your tween/teen asks you to do something together, you don’t ask questions. If you have the time, you do it!
For most of us, life is overwhelming. Work schedules, extracurricular commitments, family obligations, household chores, etc. seem to be constantly tapping us on the shoulder. There is always something to do. Your tweens/teens feel this way, too.
Sometimes it is enough to merely be in the same room with your kids. Remain accessible if needed–but not in their face needling and nagging. Your quiet presence can actually be reassuring. Tweens and teens notice this, even if they don’t acknowledge it. And you may be surprised to discover that once the pressure’s off, they natrually gravitate towards you wanting to chat and open up.
None of these ideas will solve all the teenage angst and hormonal rage that you’re up against, but they can help avoid many of the road blocks that form between parents and their tweens and teens. You’ll probably still be in for a bumpy ride, but you’re far less likely to find yourself constantly running into dead-ends.