As a parent, it's important to keep an open line of communication, and to make sure your kids feel comfortable coming to you for advice and support. As they become pre-teens or “tweens”, this becomes especially tricky, because of budding hormones, an ever-expanding social circle, tough classes, and their desire to have more independence.
Do you ever wish to know exactly what your tween is thinking? Here are some responses from real, and average 10-12 year-olds when asked the question, “What do you wish your parents knew?”
If we say we're struggling with a subject, we really mean it! We don't need our parents to do our work for us, and we definitely don't want them to call or email the teacher at the first sign of a problem, but we do need their help sometimes. We'd rather hear suggestions, and then be allowed to do the work on our own. There is a great deal of pressure to excel at school. Add the friend drama to that, and school is super stressful! We really need time to unwind at the end of the school day.
On responsibility and freedom:
We feel trusted when we are given a little room to roam. We enjoy doing independent things, like going to a movie with a friend without parents and little siblings by our sides. We like to know that our Mom or Dad is close by if we need them, though.
We really do need our devices. When we say that "everyone in school has a phone" it's actually true. Everyone has one. We use them for homework, class work, and fun. Some schools have Facebook or Instagram pages where students interact, and those are really important to our camaraderie. Parents should show us how to be safe online, instead of just banning it.
It might seem like we're suddenly too cool to hang out with our parents, but quality time with them is more important to us now, than it ever was. We'd love to spend some one-on-one time with each parent doing something we enjoy, or simply grabbing a drink at Starbucks together and talking.
On being embarrassed:
We'd rather our parents not use the "mom voice", and just use the same tone they'd use with their own friends. One quick hug is fine, a big hug and a kiss on the cheek is overkill. We also get pretty embarrassed when they dress like we do and shop at the same stores/departments.
We like to know exactly where we stand. When parents are inconsistent or don't explain the rules clearly, it really frustrates us. If a rule is non-negotiable, we can accept it, but we feel validated and respected when we're allowed to make our case against it. Even if the answer is still “no”, it means more if parents hear us out.
We prefer to have informative books about the physical changes that are coming. Talks can be awkward for both kids and parents, and we like to have the information to refer to later on. We'd rather have a book with accurate information, than be left to our own devices with Google! We still want to be able to come to our parents and talk through our questions, as long as they promise not to laugh, get embarrassed, or make fun!
On the future:
Most of us have no clue what we want to do when we grow up, or where we want to go to college. We just want to enjoy being a kid for a couple more years. Once we're in high school, we'll be ready to talk more seriously about college and careers. We appreciate when our parents say stuff like, "you would make a great doctor," but we'd like to make our own decisions about our career path, in our own time. Encouragement is great, but when parents compare us to themselves or insist that we follow a certain path, it makes us feel like our own goals aren't good enough.
We hope this interview has opened your eyes to what an average tween is feeling and experiencing. Perhaps ask your own tween some similar questions (and maybe admit that you might indeed have a mom voice!)
If your kiddo has a hard time opening up, try sweetening the deal with an ice cream outing, or chatting in the car where you don't have to make eye contact.The object is to get them into their comfort zone so they can really spill the beans. As they grow into teenagers and eventually adults, these conversations will be touchstones to remind them that you're always there to listen.
Photo credits: Emily Jones and Cavan Images