CONNECTED WITH YOUR PRETEENS
Louise Hajjar Diamond
are back in school and spending most of their time away from home and
their parents. Between school, clubs, sports, friends and other activities,
preteens are busy and on the go. Sometimes parents and kids arenít really
relating to each other even when they are spending time together. It
easy for parents to get caught up in performing activities, we can lose
sight of enjoying, talking, listening and connecting with our kids.
It is more
important than ever for parents to connect with their pre-adolescent
and adolescent children. It is during these years when kids are looking
for guidance to potentially life-altering topics. Children in this age
group are beginning to form their own values and beliefs. Before leaving
elementary school, kids need and want
to talk to their parents about relevant topics. Preteens long for guidance
from their parents and they really DO value their parentsí opinions,
judgement, and most of all, their example.
As a middle
school guidance counselor, Iíve had many kids tell me that the most
they wanted from their parents was to spend time with them. Preteens
and young teens want their parents to really know
them as individuals. Kids want to be accepted for who they are and for
what they will become. They want to know what their parents think about
hard issues such as smoking, drugs, drinking, and sex. Kids will have
questions and they want answers from their parents. Even when it seems
like kids arenít listening to their parents, they are. Parents are the greatest influence in the lives of their children. Here
are some ideas on staying connected and really relating with your child.
feel their families donít listen or understand them. There is a definite
relationship between adolescents who make poor choices and those who
have poor communication with their parents.
should be cherished. It seems that parents and young teens are going
in opposite directions most of time. After all the basic needs are met,
the homework is done, and the activities are completed, there is little
time for fun and relating to each other. Reducing play and fun may even
seem like a natural consequence of working parents and busy family life.
Make the most out of small and simple moments with your kids. Get to
know your kids without making assumptions about their perceptions, accomplishments,
and their needs and desires.
and outings with your kids where talking and listening can take place.
Television and movies may be helpful if they will act as a springboard
for conversation. Donít miss out on these chances. Sharing an after
school snack or meal, folding laundry or cooking can be perfect opportunities
for conversation. Whenever and wherever youíre alone and relaxed with
your preteen, can be a great chance to relate and connect.
courage to bring up tough topics with your growing child. Talk to your
kids about the consequences of choices that can harm them. Ask your
kids if anyone has ever approached them about smoking or using illegal
drugs. Let your kids know how you feel about them using these substances.
Resist getting angry if your child tells you theyíve already tried something
harmful. Teach your kids about the dangers of tabacco, alcohol, drugs,
weapons, and sex. They need to know the facts from you. Remind them
all the time that they can come to you any time with a problem or just
to talk. Be receptive and listen.
questions to your preteen. Here are some sample openers: What did you
and your friends do at the party (concert, or game)? Who was there?
What did you do in English class today? How do you feel about kids smoking
(using drugs, alcohol, and having sex)? What do you think you would
do in that situation? What grade do you feel you deserved? What did
you learn from this experience? How did you feel when your friend (teacher,
coach, crush) didnít include you? How do you feel about lying (cheating)?
Is there something youíd like to tell me or ask me? Try to avoid statements
or questions that may make your child respond in a single word answer
that may end the conversation.
By presenting open-ended questions to your kids,
youíll get to know what theyíre thinking, doing, and feeling. Youíll
also have a chance to tell them how you feel about certain important
subjects. Remind them that you were once their age. You can share experiences
of your youth if you think it will help your child grow and learn.
and teenagers still need the guidance and support from their parents
to gain the skills necessary to make healthy choices. The best tool
parents can give adolescents is healthy self-esteem. Self-confidence
and healthy self-esteem are fostered by open and positive communication
between parent and child.
connected with your kids and being a positive role model, youíll provide
your kids with the tools they need to arm themselves against peer pressure
and negative influences. They will be prepared to face and handle tough
situations they are bound to encounter during the middle and high school
Diamond is a guidance counselor, freelance writer and mother of two.
To reprint this article, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)