As the mum of a soon to be 11-year-old boy, this is a subject close to my heart as it feels like my sensitive, gentle little man has recently morphed into a sullen, grumpy teen that can wither me with a single glance. It happened almost overnight, I was totally unprepared for it and more than a little heart broken. And I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t handled this new phase at all well and have gone head to head with him on many occasions when what I needed to do was stop and figure out a new approach. In fact, it was only when my hubbie sat me down to have a ‘little word’ about how I was being a little antagonistic and escalating rather than diffusing situations that I had a bit of a soul search and reset. And I really hate when he’s right but hey, the man makes sense sometimes! Because what I realised – when I actually stopped to work things through in my tiny mind – was that whilst my little man doesn’t understand his changing hormones and emotions, why he did what he did, why he’s so upset about a seemingly irrational situation with his brother, as parents and adults we do. We’re equipped to deal with it when most of the time he is not, so need to help him and as much as anything alter our approach and behaviour rather than always fighting to change his. And after this revelation, and changing my attitude towards how I handled situations, things have improved. And from managing to side step a few bombs and navigating the minefield that is life with my nearly 11 year at the moment, here are my 5 tips for surviving life with a tween.
No more ‘How was your day?’
It’s like a nervous tic and I find myself desperate to ask it yet know that I’ll get a “Fine.” at best and an eye roll at worst, because ‘Mum, you always ask the same things!” Thanks for the feedback! So, I bite my tongue now and approach things in a different way as we walk home from school. I’ll tell him about something funny that I did that day that I know will amuse him and start us on safer ground. Or I’ll start chatting to his 6 year old brother about the inanities of his day – which is typically full of very animated and amusing tales – and as they go to the same school, he will eventually join in and we’re off.
Bite your tongue!
I’m a Brummie and very fond of sarcasm – people who say that it’s the lowest form of wit just aren’t trying hard enough in my books – but I’ve come to realise that just because he’s now the king of eye rolling, doesn’t mean that I can be. It really doesn’t help. After finding myself saying things like, ‘If you’re going to roll your eyes do it properly” and parrying and riposting sarcastic retorts, I realised that I wasn’t getting anywhere, and it just wasn’t bloody helpful. Or mature. And whilst it might have felt good at the time, it wasn’t helping me in the relationship building stakes. So, biting my tongue has been the way forward and diffusing sarcastic bombs with silence or a patient reply or follow up question, whilst less satisfying, has been far more productive!
Step away from the PlayStation!
This is the bane of my existence. And don’t get me wrong, I totally get it. All his mates are talking about or on their PlayStation, phones, devices 24/7..well they say they are..so it’s only natural for my little man to want to keep up with the pack. And he loves all things technology/science and is good at it at school – he’s his father’s son after all – so would happily sit drooling at a screen 24/7 if he were allowed. Which he’s obviously not. So, what we try and do – and it seems to be working – is allow him time to be online with his mates (and annoying little brother) but to monitor it and to more importantly make sure that he is given the time and space to be away from a screen and to be a kid. Watching him play Spotlight with his brother the other night and giggling with the boys next door over a game of tip makes me feel very happy and comforted that’s he holding on to his childhood for just that little bit longer.
Cut the umbilical cord!
A bit of a contradiction given what I’ve just said but bear with me. And this has been a hard one for me as I’m a worrier and just want to make sure that my boys are safe. Stating the obvious I know as all of us parents are the same, but I’ve struggled to think about my 10 year old as ready to take those first steps to maturity and independence. I don’t think that it’s helped that he’s one of the younger kids in his year (if not the youngest) as he went to school at 4 and a half so many of his friends seem that little bit older, taller; more mature. But he’s more than capable and it’s my perception and problem not his. And he’s going to high school next year so it’s my job to get him ready for that so we’ve been letting him walk to school on his own and occasionally get the bus with a friend or meet his older mates to hang out after school. And I’ve seen his confidence and maturity develop and know that it’s the right thing to do so we’ll keep working with him to do more of it so that he can spread his wings; safely and with support.
And finally, and so importantly, is trying to carve out some time together, which is hard when you have more than one child I know but I’ve found it to be something that has nurtured our relationship and given us time, space and opportunities for him to open up to me. If your child’s anything like mine, he’s a bit of a thinker and keeps a lot of his thoughts to himself until he’s ready to share. We were walking back from dropping his brother at a mate’s the other day and out of the blue (with no annoying mummy questions/prods) he volunteered his thoughts and concerns about high school and gave me real insight into his headspace and how he’d been thinking about a few things. And we had a lovely chat and I had my boy back for a blissful hour or so. Time in a vacuum and well as time spent doing something that you both enjoy is just so important to maintain and hold on to that relationship when everything else seems to be changing.
So, if you have a tween like me, good luck and I hope this helps a little if you’re struggling to navigate the hormonal highs and lows as they teeter on the brink of childhood. And when it all gets too much, take a deep breath and repeat what we’ve been saying since we became parents and have bounced from teething to walking to the terrible twos and tantrums..this too shall pass!