Staying connected as kids approach the tween years and become more independent may become a challenge for parents, but it’s as important as ever — if not more so now. Often parents often ask how to get along with their suddenly volatile preteen daughter. It’s a shock when your previously sweet little girl starts to tantrum again. Eleven-year-old girls can be moody, over-dramatizing, self-centered, focused almost solely on friends, close-mouthed, surly, back-talking, and condescending to parents. They can, of course, also be mature, affectionate, and delightful, but at their worst, they’re a cross between the most challenging aspects of toddlers and teens.
We want to share some of these tips;
Family meals – It may seem like a chore to prepare a meal, particularly after a long day. But a shared family meal provides valuable together time. So schedule it and organize it just as you would any other activity. Even if you have to pick up something pre-made, sit down together to eat it. Turn off the TV and try to tune out the ringing phone. Make it something fun, and get everyone involved in the preparation and the cleanup. Sharing an activity helps build closeness and connection, and everyone pitching in reinforces a sense of responsibility and teamwork.
Share ordinary time – Find little things that let you just hang out together. Invite your preteen to come with you to walk the dog. Invite yourself along on his or her run. Washing the car, baking cookies, renting movies, watching a favorite TV show — all are opportunities to enjoy each other’s company. And they’re chances for kids to talk about what’s on their mind. Even riding in the car is an opportunity to connect. When you’re driving, your preteen may be more inclined to mention a troubling issue. Since you’re focused on the road, he or she doesn’t have to make eye contact, which can ease any discomfort about opening up.
Be willing to change – You can’t parent the way you did when she was little; it just isn’t appropriate or effective. If she gets testy, that’s a signal that you need to adjust your parenting style to connect and listen more. (This will happen just at those moments when you want her to listen to you, of course!)
Focus on strengthening the relationship – You’ll get no respect if she doesn’t feel connected to you. Fight like the dickens to stay close to your daughter. Do not let her push you away. She still needs you, she just can’t acknowledge it. Find every opportunity to connect. Hug her hello every morning, and hug her goodbye when she leaves for school. Many parents find that time just before bed to be the time their daughter is least distracted by other things, and most willing to open her heart.
Limit screens – As tween girls begin to lose interest in pretend play and the other games that occupied their earlier years, many of them begin to spend more time on the computer, and it isn’t unusual for them to fall into the grip of computer addiction. As a first step, you’ll want to sign an agreement for responsible cell phone usage when you first give your child a phone. Be sure you’re sitting down with your child daily to review the texts and other phone usage and talk about the choices your child is making. Then, be sure to limit screen usage for anything besides homework to the hours after homework is completed.
Create special time – Make a tradition out of celebrating family milestones beyond birthdays and holidays. Marking smaller occasions like a good report card or a winning soccer game helps reinforce family bonds.
While activities outside, new interests, and a growing social life become more important to growing kids, parents are still the anchors, providing love, guidance, and support.
Small, simple things can reinforce the connection. Make room in your schedule for special times, take advantage of the routines you already share and show that you care.