To parents or older siblings, tweens sometimes can come across cold, depressed, immature, and tons of other crazy personalities, which is why we need to encourage them and love them unconditionally. However, the most important practice is to get them talking at a deeper level. Current handling of tween relationships is the cornerstone for their adult ones. I have six teenagers, three of them are still considered, however. These are five top practices to implement with your tween.
1. Each Tween is Different-Even Twins
I have 6 teenagers right now. They are all so very different, even my twins, yet they all have gone through, or are growing through, that awkward stage of discovering not only who they really are, but where their true friends reside.
Social media can be superficial, fake, and leave tweens with empty or raw emotions mainly because of the lack of love and relationship depth. We all know a quick post can wreck a friendship so fast. One of my twins will brush off an offense faster than her sibling, or so it appears that way, while the other takes things personally and is more sensitive.
Girls may act differently on the outside, but what really is going on in their heart is what I as a parent am more interested in. We talk about their differences on a weekly basis. This deeper level of communication makes them both think a little more before they test, post or communicate with others too.
2. Comments from Childhood Matter
If we think back to our youthful days, there will always be a few comments from others that stuck out. One of mine still comes to mind when I hear of bullying at school. This small little thing no more than 90 pounds, back in my Junior High days, walked around like she owned the school. She was rude to almost everyone except her little close groupie-which she led. I always wondered why she was the pack leader.
She would pick physical fights with most girls she was in competition with or bluntly-jealous of. I was no exception to her schemes and I found myself backed up to my locker one day praying for a teacher to walk by. To my surprise, she bluntly told me she didn’t want me around being in competition with her and that I needed to stop being perfect. Whatever did that mean?
This situation and comment sticks with me today. I’ve thought about it over the years and realized the hurt behind her words. I found out she was in a terrible home situation and was looking for attention in all the wrong places. She needed others to see her value. She needed good friends to love and cherish her because she wasn’t getting it at home.
Had I been able to talk to an adult about this in a deeper way my Junior High years would have been a lot easier. As any tween, I resented this poor peer leader and did all the normal things, someone, my age would have. I gossiped about her, told people how much I hated her for treating people so bad. I should have felt sorry for her and tried to help.
This is why the importance of speaking to kids about hurtful situations, learning tactful responses and being able to identify a hurting friend can speed up the maturity process and inhibit damaging years ahead for our tweens in this day and age.
3. Tweens Can Fool You, Be Prepared
Do you truly know what’s going on with your tween on social media, or do you just think you do? (read: To Peek or Not to Peek?) The number one things I find out when talking to parents about their tween is that they don’t really know what’s going on. They ‘think’ they do. They talk to their kids about their day and events that happened, but not much more.
Girls might give a few more details about situations than some boys, but on a daily basis, we are missing out those deeper constructive conversations.
“Hey kiddo, how’d today go? Anything exciting happen? Did you learn anything today?” said parent.
“Not really. But I did dissect a fish and the smell was terrible. Sydney even got fish guts on her because Sandy spilled the jar!” replied tween. “Sydney is so mad. She posted that she hates Sandy and told everyone to watch out for the clutz. Then Sandy said Sydney was a snitch because she told the teacher and got her in trouble. They both had to go to the counselor’s office and things got way worse just on the way home. It’s like a cat fight on snap chat! Sydney even told me not to talk to Snitchy Sandy.”
“Well, that’s not good! Hopefully, she’ll get the smell out of her clothes and those girls will work it out. Don’t get involved honey. Sad they are getting others involved. Ready for basketball?” replied parent.
“Yea, let me just get a snack, I’m starved,” said tween.
And the family heads into the rest of their evening with traveling, eating, and smaller chit-chat. Do you think the tween will stay out of the ‘catfight’?
4. Make Time for Your Tween When THEY are Ready
There is a time and place for everything, but sometimes the time and place won’t line up with our timeline. Ouch. When our kids want to talk, we have to put our stuff down and look them in the eye and engage – Oh, I wish I would do better at this. I’m still trying my best to be intentional about it.
Sometimes kids will spill their guts at nighttime when they are refusing to sleep, and others are like gushing water leaking every detail of their day when they walk in the door. Timing is everything and they are a huge priority in these tween years.
5. If They Don’t Talk – Ask Them Questions
The most important thing is to ask them deeper questions, you know, the ones that don’t require a yes or no answer. Get to the bottom of why they are telling you things. Ask them why they felt a certain way, how things happened, get to the root of what led to the relationship fall out and how they could fix it or do better next time.
We are teaching our kids how to handle relationships every day, regardless if we are audibly telling them. If we ignore their deeper side and don’t instruct them on how to handle daily smaller issues, they will come up with how they are modeled by others – which usually isn’t the solution.
Implementing these five practices can significantly increase relationships. I’d love to hear your suggestions on how you encourage your tween relationships.