In a few weeks my soon-to-be former “tween” (preteen) will turn 13 years old officially becoming a TEENAGER! The fact that my tween will soon be a teenager fills me with joy (another year closer to when he can attain a drivers license and drive me around! LOL) and a bit of sadness (my firstborn is no longer physically my “baby”, even though he will always be in my heart). Because I have been a fairly young mother to him (I turn 31 at end of this month), we have literally grown up together. People assume he is my younger brother and I’m usually among the youngest parents in his classroom. For the first 7 years of his life, I was a single mother to him so our bond grew to be very close. He often traveled with me on business trips and conferences that were held in family friendly locations and he has been a constant source of motivation for me.
The past 5 years have been a period of tremendous change for us. I got married to his stepfather, gave birth to identical twin boys, moved to Florida from the Washington D.C. area, started a business, and my tween entered junior high. All of these and others changes are wonderful in concept, but has altered the universe of just my firstborn and I. Where he used to have my undivided attention as a single mother, he now shares my time with his toddlers twin brothers and stepfather. I’m proud to say that even though he was raised as an only child for quite a while, he is a FANTASTIC big brother (and stepson). At times, you would think that he is the twins’ father instead of their brother, because of his strong protective love, care, and attention he gives to the them….something that fills my heart with happiness. However, as most parents can attest to, connecting (or re-connecting) with children can be difficult, especially teens. During the preteen and teen years, children want their own independence away from their parents, want to establish their own identity, and claim to want their “freedom”. Studies have shown the positive benefits for teens when parents stay connected with them, but how can overextended, tired, and busy parents keep an on-going relationship with their tween or teen?
The following are a few tips to assist in connecting with teens:
- Un-Interrupted Quality Time: When was the last time your family was not plugged in? In my home we have several game systems (i.e. Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, etc.) and the games are great for family fun interaction. However, playing the games requires some concentration and not much time for in-depth conversations. As parents, we should have time where we can talk to our preteens or teens without interruption from cell phones, iPads, computers, or any other outside distraction. These much desired but sometime elusive “quality times” are necessary for growth and to help lay the foundation for healthy relationship with your children. Recently, I read a post that reminded me about quality family time from the brilliant Filmmaker & Director, Dan Perez, called The Klout Myth and Living Above The Influence. In the post, he explains how he asked his wife and 13-year-old daughter, what resolutions he should adopt in 2011. Their answer: “…#1 on both lists was: “Stop spending so much time on the computer.” Translation? Start spending some more time with us. Now, a good portion of how I make a living is done editing my various video productions on a computer. But it made me take a look at where I’m spending the rest of the time when I’m not editing. I realized that I have indeed spent quite a bit of time frolicking on twitter, reading and commenting on blog posts, “engaging” in twitter chats…and not as much time with my family as I used to….” (I would recommend reading the rest of Dan’s engaging and thought provoking post.)
- Create Your Un-Interrupted Quality Time: Every family is different and so each family should create their own unique quality family time. First, set a “Family Time” schedule. Our calendars are full of appointments that we can’t miss so add to your calendar ‘Family Time’. For example, every second Friday of the month can be “Game Night”, where your family will order pizza for dinner and play your favorite board games together as a family. Something as simple as eating around the dinner table together as a family most nights will help to encourage conversation. When families eat dinner together around the table, families are connected and invested with each other. Second, don’t miss your appointment with your family. Most people would not want to skip or miss an appointment with the President of ABC Television Network. Why? Probably because the President of ABC can be considered to be a highly desired and lucrative V.I.P, but so are the people in your family. They are important, influential, and determining factors in your life. Teens like to feel important, wanted, and needed–like most adults–so its important that as their parents we show them exactly how we feel about them. Showing up and participating for “Family Night” can portray to teens the message that “This Family Is Important and So Are You.”
- Create A “Parent & Me Day” With Your Teen: In the midst of busy schedules and caring for other children, teens still want to feel like they matter in their household. Teens want to be “understood” by their parents and not have their feelings overlooked. A great way to converse with your teen and connect with their life is by having a “parent & me day” with your teen. Having a time where as a parent you can enjoy a meal, see a movie, walk in the park, go to a bookstore, or go shopping with your preteen or teen is very important. During this time, it allows your preteen or teen to have your undivided attention, feel free to discuss any issues or problems they may be having in private, and where a lot of important topics can occur, i.e. sex, drugs, alcohol, smoking, etc.
- Be Involved: As teens begin to mature, their tastes and interests will evolve. Its important for parents to take an interest in what their teens (and younger children) are participating in and are involved with. Teens have the capability to always be “in the know” of the latest fashion trend, music, and technology. Show some support in what your teen likes–if your teen likes to skateboard, take them to the local skateboard park so they can practice their spins & jumps; if your teen likes to play baseball, try to make it to most of the practices & games to cheer them on; if your teen wants to play the drums, get them their pair of drumsticks (and maybe some ear plugs while they are practicing). The point is that you want to show your teen that you want to be participate and be involved with the things they like.
- Try To Stay Update: It helps parents to try and know what is the latest craze going on with tweens and preteens. If you have tweens or teens in your home (and whether as parents you like or not), names like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, or Jersey Shore should have some space already in your mental memory bank. Remember when you were growing up and you would exclaim, “My parents just don’t get it!” or “When I get older, I’m not never going to be like my Mother or Father with my kids!”…good times, right?! LOL When your teen watches the newest hit show, sit down and watch it with them–it can lead to great conversations about what they listen to and watch.
- Online Resources: The virtual world offers some great online resources for parents in receiving help and useful tips when navigating the roller coaster world of teens. The following are a few of those resources: Momster.com, website solely dedicated for moms of tweens/teens; Cindy Teen Advice, popular teen advice columnist; Parenting Teens on About.com, online guide to raising teens from parenting author; Focus on The Family Teen Section , tips and resources for parenting & families; Rosalind Wiseman, parenting and family expert.
Have more suggestions, tips, and/or resources for staying connected with your teen? Feel free to post a comment below. As the soon to be mother of a teenager and identical twins, I need all the help I can get! 🙂
Joscelyn, Owner of Mami of Multiples & Mami Innovative Media
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