How to Bond With a Preteenby S.R. Becker, studioD
The middle-school years are a time in which children grow tremendously, both physically and emotionally. As your preteen struggles to figure out who she is, you might find that she pulls away from you and gets closer to her friends. According to TeacherWeb, children between 10 and 12 struggle with self-doubt, especially when girls mature faster than boys. They may seem preoccupied with their friends and less interested in what you have to say. Bonding with preteens isn't impossible -- it just requires an awareness of their concerns.
Schedule daily time together, either as a family or one on one. Insist on eating at least one meal at the table with the TV turned off. If possible, enlist your preteen's help in meal preparation. At least once a week, do something special together, just the two of you. For example, go for a walk, go out to lunch or engage in an activity of her choosing.
Keep the lines of communication open and the conversation ongoing. If you corner your preteen and expect to talk about a difficult or personal subject, don't be surprised when he clams up. However, if you seize moments in which you can bring up those subjects contextually -- for example, when a character in a TV show you watch deals with a school bully -- he's more likely to let you in on how he's really feeling.
Encourage your preteen's independence. It's OK to ignore cries of "But everyone else is doing it!" most of the time, but give them credence on occasion. If your preteen's friends are going to the mall without parental supervision or taking the subway solo, consider allowing your child to join in. Reward her for choosing intelligent, responsible friends by allowing her to go somewhere with a child you trust for a couple of hours. Show her you trust her judgment and her ability to take care of herself, within reason.
Support your preteen's exploration of his own identity. If he wants to be a guitar player, listen to music with him and encourage him to articulate what he likes about it. If he suddenly has a penchant for wearing all black, don't panic. As long as his clothes are clean and fit the school dress code, let him wear what he wants. Don't be surprised if his interests and style change frequently -- it's all part of figuring out who he is.
Model the behavior you wish to see. If you want your child to treat you with respect, treat her with respect. If you want her to be responsible with money, let her see you decide against an impulse buy. Praise her for making good choices -- you can never tell her too often how strong, brave and intelligent you think she is.
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