Help Tweens Navigate Choppy Waters
A dedicated dad sinks into a chair, the makings of his son’s Pinewood Derby car in his hand. I look questioningly at the block of wood and mysterious trappings of the car-to-be.
“Oh, this is the easy part,” he says. Smiling with pleasure, he talks about last year’s curvaceous, if not aerodynamic design – his son’s vision brought to life through their work together.
“But could you talk a little about tweens? I get in the car each evening and literally ask myself, ‘Which Emily’s it going to be today?’ ” He shakes his head.
There’s still plenty of wind in this dad’s parental sail, but Emily’s moods definitely have him listing a little to one side.
“That’s so lame, Dad! Mary says ….” When kids head for middle school, parents are often in for a rude awakening. Suddenly, you’re no longer your children’s only frame of reference. Their friends seem to have taken on the aura of prophets.
However, it’s both normal and important for tweens to begin to navigate the social scene and try on the opinions offered by their friends. They’re not only searching for their own identity; they’re also learning critical thinking. Don’t put down their friends. Instead, respectfully help them think things through and formulate their own opinions.
“You don't respect me!” Gently tease out the meaning in these words. “Hmmm – I definitely don’t mean to be disrespectful. What made you feel that way?” “What would show you that I do respect you?” Help your child distinguish between blind agreement and respect.
Avoid proving her wrong. Instead, be empathic. Help her state her case. And keep in mind that she just might be right.
Help her modulate her emotions. Your daughter is alternating between feeling like a little girl and wanting to be an adult. She still needs your calm presence to anchor her when she feels like the sky is falling.
Keep your sense of humor. The wind has changed; that’s all. Go with it!
As for the Pinewood Derby, I’m not so sure it’s the easier question at all. Perhaps the biggest challenge for dads is to make an intentional decision about whose dream car you are going to build. In other words, whose project is it? But that’s a topic for another day.
©2008 Beech Acres Parenting Center; www.beechacres.org