Friday, September 7, 2018

Smarty is turning 12 in a few weeks. She is firmly in throes of tween years - her emotions swing widely, her moods change practically hourly while she valiantly tries to balance her desires with her responsibilities. Her need for independence rises as well, and I am trying to balance her drive for freedom with her deep desire to feel protected and connected. Here are a few things that work for us so far.

Letting Her Make More Choices

This year, Smarty was very firm in telling me that she does not want to be reminded of homework, asked about homework or even "interrogated" (as she put in) about grades. Most of all, she wants to decide when she is going to do her homework. We had to agree on one compromise - she can play Minecraft for 30 minutes after coming home to "unwind", but then her homework needs to be completed before she can get back to any sort of games. I also told her that I will still be checking her online grade book and will step in if things suddenly get quite off course, but overall I think she can handle her responsibility on her own, especially considering that her teachers put assignments online, so she should not be missing them.

Validating Her Feelings

I am glad I read Untangled recently. It goes in detail over how the girls who are unable or unwilling to handle their emotions "dump" them on their parents, mostly on their Moms. I can certainly see some of this, and it's hard for me not to get swept away in the same torrent of emotions. But the book said that adults should not be "ruminating" together with their adolescent girls over their thoughts and feelings, they should be "validating" them and also challenging them if necessary. So I am trying to stay calm as much as I can when Smarty is caught up in an emotional storm, so she can rely on me to get out safely. Luckily, her strong emotions are mostly fleeting, and she usually resets back into a content and cheerful state every evening.

Night Walks

The best way I found to connect to my tween is through our daily night walks. This is where she opens up most and processes details of her day. Our conversations can go in any direction - discussing books she reads, her classes in school, her plans for the future, interesting tidbits from the news, how afterlife might look like, etc. Sometimes we walk for more than an hour - mostly with her talking and me listening. I really love this slice of my day and this opportunity to gain more insights into what's really going on in that brilliant head. I guard this time religiously, making this after dinner walk a habit for both of us. I really hope that we will keep this tradition for years to come.

Your Turn

What do you do to connect to your older kids?


Ticia said...

Hmmm, that gets me thinking of taking one of my kids on a walk each night....