Source: Tween Parent Staff
It's the start of the new school year and everything is ramping up...new teachers, new after school programs, new friends...new routines. It's a time for parents and children to take assessment of all that has changed and all that is new. How many times do we hear from our friends and fellow parents, "Wow, your daughter is growing up so fast!"? With each passing milestone and marker of time, I'm finding that my daughter's yearning for independence is front and center, and comes in different forms.
So, how can we keep the connection with our "almost teens" and allow them the latitude to push out a bit on their own? How are we able to honor their need to be separate from us, but know we're there and that we care?
My tween and I have found a way to bridge the connections from being a dependent kid to an independent teen, by doing things together and finding opportunities for her to strike out on her own. Every relationship is unique and what works for one family won't work for all. But here's what I've found works for us:
- I readily accept her telling me that I embarrass her. I know that's my job at this point! Being the parent of a tween requires thick skin.
- Even when she tells me that it doesn't matter if I go to a school function, I still go. And I notice her looking around to see if I'm there.
- I give her the outlet to talk to me about anything she wants and try REALLY HARD not to be preachy.
- I try to save my criticism for the really important things. We all have hot buttons. I personally don't care what she chooses to wear, as long as it's not indecent.
- I'm careful to let her take charge of her food choices and hygiene habits, hoping that the many years of nagging will have been worth it.
- I assign her responsibilities, with consequences if she doesn't follow through. Even though she complains about boundaries, she ultimately seems to accept them and, after many tears, even appreciates that I say no sometimes (or maybe that's what I want to believe!).
- I listen, especially when I'm around my daughter and her friends. When I don't participate, I think they forget I'm there. There's plenty to be learned about what they're interested in!
- I continue to harp on the importance of respect and the value of friendships and the mantra of "How would you feel if...?"
Finally, I watch with pride as she runs toward her friends and they huddle and giggle; she's growing into a fine young, independent woman. It's a hard job and the most rewarding one I've ever had!