Connecting with my tween-aged daughter is a top priority for me. I tell myself, almost daily, that if I can build strong connections with her now then maybe those teenage years won’t be so bad. (Conversely, I also constantly tell myself, if I can’t make it through a few eye rolls, the occasional “I hate you!” and the sporadic “you don’t know anything” temper tantrums now, then how the heck am I going to survive life with a teenager?)
I want open communication with my kids. This is my number one parenting goal. I don’t want them to hide things from me, or dread talking with me. When they screw up I want to hear about it from them, not from someone else stepping in to tell me that my child has done something wrong. I just want them to know they can talk to me, always. I think that’s something most parents want.
So, this is my daily goal — to connect with my kids. For my nine year old I have adopted this three pronged approach that I thought I’d share with you today; Be Involved, Experience Media, and Communicate Creatively.
1. Be Involved in What Your Child Is Interested In
Take an interest in whatever your children are passionate about. Be a part of their hobbies. Art? Science? Dinky cars? Robots? Whatever it is let them invite you into that world.
For example, my daughter is banjo obsessed. I don’t give two figs about banjo, but I want to be a part of whatever she loves. Basically, I think sharing a hobby is a great way to connect with your kids. While I am not about to learn to play the banjo, I am learning ABOUT banjo, about the types of banjos, and the music styles. I nod enthusiastically when she comes how from her music lessons and wants to tell me all about the history of stringed instruments, or the difference between this plucking style and that. And I spent three days in Michigan last month so that I could take my daughter to her idea of heaven on earth, a banjo convention. I also try and involve her in some of my hobbies, like for example playing complex board games. Anything that gives us common ground and shared experiences is a win in my book.
Sometimes when your kids are younger the things that they are interested are, well, childish. It feels like “little kids stuff” that you don’t want or need to be involved in. However, I always hold this quote in mind.
My hope is that little connections over little things now will grow into big connections over big things later.
2. Experience the Media that Your Kid Consumes
Watch the TV shows your kids watch. Read the books they are reading. Listen to the CDs they are listening to. In short, share with them the experience of consuming the media that they love best.
Now I don’t mean stalking your kids, or micromanaging what media they consume. Overall I give my kids parameters for what they are allowed to read, watch or listen to, and then let them make their own choices within those parameters (like for example they are free to pick anything from within the kids’ section of Netflix).
What I mean is finding what they like best and experiencing it with them. For me, this means watching plenty of episodes of My Little Pony and Teen Titans Go! I kind of can’t stand Teen Titans, but I sit and watch it with my girl because she assures me that it is “the best!”. I’ve also found myself laying on my daughter’s bed listening to a CD of banjo music and asking her about her favourite tracks.
In turn, I try and get her hooked on the media that I enjoy. I lend her copies of my favourite books and CDs, and coerce her into watching the kids shows I think rock, like Voltron (it was an easy sell, and now one of her fav shows).
Netflix did this social experiment where they brought parents and teens together, had them watch the same show separately, and then connect by discussing it. While I feel my 4th grader is not in the right age range to be watching 13 Reasons Why, I love that so many discussions on serious topics are forming around this series, and I love the concept behind this video. When we share media, we connect.
Again, it’s just all about common ground and shared experiences, and as I said above, I feel like sharing media with them now, while they are little, helps lay the groundwork for sharing more adult subject matter as they get older.
3. Find Creative Ways to Communicate With Your Tween
Sometimes words are hard. Having real life conversations in important, but finding other ways to communicate is good too. You need to find the right fit for you and your kid. I know, for example, that some people have the best conversations with their tweens or teenagers by texting them, while others like to leave notes in their kids’ lunch boxes.
I started one of those joint Mom/Daughter diaries with my daughter. You know, where you take turns writing back and forth to each other? I bought a blank diary, and we came up with a system. She writes to me and leaves the journal sitting on top of my laptop. I write to her and leave it laying on her bed. In between conversations, it’s got a prized spot up on top of her dresser, where either of us can grab it anytime we have something to say.
This Mother-Daughter book has turned out to be the sweetest, most fun, thing ever. Based on the conversations we’ve had so far, I think this book is going to be a treasure to keep and look back on.
Overall, I feel like if I can get her to talk to me about those “silly little things” now, it will help keep the lines of communication open when she is older. I really feel like these tween years, as her personality and passions are developing, is the time to lay the groundwork and build connections and lines of communication, so that she will, hopefully, still come to me with her troubles, heartaches, bright ideas, and exciting moments, when she is older.
What about you folks? How do you connect with the tweens and teens in your life?
|I am part of the Netflix Canada #StreamTeam. Which means they sponsor me to write posts like this one. However, as you guys know, my words and opinions are always my own.|