How To Talk ... And Listen ... To Your Tweenager

Posted On: Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Introduction

No longer considered children and not yet recognized as teens, a tweenager is a young person between the ages of 12 and 15. If you've never experienced life with a tween, brace yourself. For your child, these years will be a time of exploration, experimentation, and a quest for independence. And for you, navigating through the tween years can be full of surprises, and fraught with self- doubt and disbelief. But have no fear. Like everything else, with guidance and support, this too shall pass.

Tweens are sometimes perceived as temperamental, difficult and secretive. Their quest for independence may be described as rebelliousness, but believe it or not, they are behaving as they should. In the face of huge emotional and physical changes, your child is beginning to form his own identity. This can sometimes be challenging for a parent, as their child's world expands and their interests shift from family to friends whose relationships they also value.

So how do you begin to let go in a way that demonstrates your love and support while respecting their desire for more autonomy and privacy? Here are some thoughts.

Empathetic listening

Let your tween know you understand and that all emotions and feelings are acceptable. Emotions often run high at this age. One surefire way to shut your child down is by telling them that what they're feeling is inappropriate or wrong. Don't judge or criticize. Help them to value themselves by valuing and respecting their feelings. This will influence their ability to trust in themselves. There is a difference between having feelings and acting on them. Help them honor their feelings and then help them move through them by offering healthy options for resolving them.

Encouragement through positive feedback

We often focus on what our children are doing wrong, instead of what they are doing right. As they begin to develop their own identity, they will be greatly influenced by your perception of them. Let them know how much you appreciate and value their uniqueness. If they are struggling with a problem, let them know that you have faith and trust that they will be able to find a resolution. Help them resolve it by asking questions rather than giving them the answers.

When they do make a poor choice (and they probably will), help them be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Talk to them about how they might do things differently knowing what they know now and what they have learned from the experience. Help them set goals for themselves and ask them what they might do to accomplish those goals. Ask them what have they learned from the experience and how they can make a better choice the next time.

Digging in your heals with a 14 or 15-year-old will only result in a deadlock where no one wins. Acknowledging that your young person is growing up and honoring their need for independence while balancing guidance and support will save you a lot of frustration, wrinkles and gray hairs.

Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.