When we first think of parenting and the parts that could potentially require a few tips, babies and younger children are often the first to come to mind. However, as children get older, their needs and actions change. Just as they don’t come with an instruction manual when they’re born, it’s not like you receive one as they reach milestones in their life either. So, in the spirit of staying on top of things, we have brought together these 10 great tips for parents of children around the ages of 9 and 12.
At this period of their life, there’s every chance that you’ll notice real changes in their behaviour compared to previous years. In many cases, they will have an increased sense of independence, while also being ready to try to push limits again in the same way as when they were toddlers. However, it is essential to remember that they need you now as much as they ever did, and these tips will assist in helping you to parent them as well as ever.
1. Never Feel Rejected when they Want their Own Space
The preteen stage is when kids generally start to rely on their parents less for support. Instead, they are more concerned with what their friends say or do – for better or worse. This can be difficult to adapt to, especially for parents that were previously as close as best friends with their kids. However, it is essential not to treat this as rejection and more as the child maturing. It can be hard to take at first, but the worst thing a parent can do is to attempt to force the closeness, which can potentially result in the child’s attempts to push further away.
2. Attempt to Set Out Specific Parent-Child Times
You’ll find around this age that it becomes harder than ever to get your child to open up. They’ll be as talkative as ever, but not necessarily with you. If at all possible, dedicate time once or twice each week to parent and child time. It can be in the home or out and about – as long as it is devoid of distractions, you can use this time to continue to build the relationship.
3. The Direct Approach Probably Won’t Work
When your kids are younger, you can usually expect to ask a question and get a helpful answer. On a typical day, you’d often ask about school, homework and anything else they have going on in their lives. However, once they reach the preteen stage, they might be more dismissive. Worry not, as there is a way around this. It is easy enough, as rather than seeking to lead the conversation, you only need to listen. If they have something to say, they will.
4. Try Never to Judge
As your kids grow, they will experience new things, and you need to cultivate a reputation as someone that they can come to and talk about anything. Any signs of judgement may put them off coming back with more in the future, and that is not your aim when cultivating the relationship. There will come times when discipline is required, but always give such situations a second thought before you react.
5. Take an Interest
This one is easier said than done, as a parent doing what their child is doing at this age is often a red flag that it isn’t cool. However, you should make an effort and try to get involved as, if nothing else, you’ll immediately have something in common to discuss next time you have your parent and child time, dedicated using the tip above.
6. Don’t be Afraid to Broach the Trickier Subjects
Parents have an uncanny ability to understate the age of their kids – not chronologically, but in terms of what they do at each stage. The real world differs from location to location, but if there comes a time when you need to discuss sex, drugs or anything else, take advantage of the opportunity. Not only will you have the chance to educate your child, but they may gain a sense of being able to talk to you about anything.
7. Downplay Drama
Drama happens, and the rise of social media means that it can occur at home as well as at school. As the adult in these situations, it is your job to rationalise what happens. Be understanding, but never throw fuel on the fire by causing drama of your own. It is often best not to join in with it for obvious reasons, and your first thought should never be to call the parents of other involved parties.
8. Don’t Go Too Far in the Other Direction
While you need to be the responsible one at most times, you should never go too far away from getting involved to the point you become passive or, worse still, ignorant. You should still take action when the situation warrants it; otherwise, your child can quickly get to a point where they are disinclined to talk to you about anything as they already have their minds made up about what you’ll do about it.
9. Encourage Their Interests
Preteen kids have reached the stage where they start to think they know everything. However, there are certain aspects of their life that they remain hugely reliant on you for. They rarely have much money of their own, and transport options are limited. To them, they need you to come along to sports and events. For you, that’s an opportunity to show an interest and keep the conversation flowing. If you can take a proper interest, that’s yet another thing you’ll have in common to discuss whenever an opportunity arises.
10. Provide the Emotional Support They Require
Thee preteen stage is an emotional time and, above anything else, you need to be there for your child as they experience the ups and downs of what lies ahead for them. This requires you to be on your toes, as you may have to break the habit of reacting immediately to anything they say and take a few seconds to consider the context.