For parents, helping a child make the transition into their teens in a healthy and positive way can be challenging. Nevertheless, it is important to provide guidance and support through the pre-teen years, even though children at this age are typically starting to look more to their peers than their parents for advice.
Parenting a pre-teen can include a sense of rejection, especially as that child exercises independence, becoming more interested in school events and time with friends. However, it is important for parents to stay engaged through this time, even if the “rules of engagement” must undergo some revisions.
Health Tips for Teens
Strategies for Maintaining Strong Ties With a Pre-Teen
The key to helping your child navigate the many challenges of adolescence is to stay connected with them. Below are some strategies for maintaining strong ties with a pre-teen.
- Set and enforce rules regarding daily routines. Ensure that your child is in bed each night at a time that allows for a full eight hours of sleep. It is also important to set a wake-up time that ensures mornings do not become a mad dash to get out the door. You should also determine how much study time your child needs each day.
- Schedule family meals. Finding a time when the whole crew can gather around the dinner table can be difficult. But family time is important for maintaining a sense of connection and support. As much as possible, be sure that the meal is more than a quick “pit stop.” Have everyone lend a hand with cooking and clean up.
- Talk about physical changes. In addition to the mental and emotional changes a pre-teen experiences, there are the physical changes that take place. Open and honest discussion of things like acne, body odor, and menstruation can keep those very natural aspects of maturation from becoming a source of embarrassment.
- Continue to show affection. The child who you always kissed on the forehead as you tucked them into bed might now prefer a quick hug before they head to their bedroom. Follow their lead on how affection is demonstrated, but do continue to express it.
- Stay current on their interests, activities, friends, etc. Pre-teens can be reluctant to share details of their life outside of the home as they start to become more independent. But if you gently and respectfully continue to show that you are interested, they will be more likely to share.
- Set reasonable limits on the use of electronic devices and social media. Decide where, when and how long your child is allowed to use their smartphone, computer, and gaming system. Make those limits clear and enforce them consistently.
- Talk about the importance of physical health and a positive body image. Discuss and model positive behaviors when it comes to eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and practicing self-acceptance. You should also help your child establish a relationship with a doctor if they don’t already have one.
- Be aware of what your child is looking for in conversations. Your pre-teen, who used to come to you for answers, may now be looking more for love and support as they find answers on their own. Be sensitive to what they need from you.
Be Good to Yourself, Too!
Everyone would agree that it is hard being an adolescent. As you parent your pre-teen, remember that what you are doing is challenging as well! No one has ever done it perfectly, but your patience, persistence, honesty and unconditional love for your child will definitely have a positive impact on their life.