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Stuck in the Middle: Advice for the Parents of Pre-Teens

Think being a teenager is hard? Try being a pre-teen. You still like kids’ toys, playing outside with your friends, building on MineCraft, and watching the Disney Channel. But you also like “cool” stuff like celebrities, pop music, YouTube, and iPhones. If you’re a girl, you’re probably playing with make-up, but Barbies are only sometimes “cool.” Better yet, try being the mom of a pre-teen!

Younger children usually share about their day at school pretty easily. But, believe me, as they get older, the conversations become more interesting everyday, especially in the pre-teen years. Those years of 5th-7th grade are hard. They are thrown into interactions with others they may not choose or want to be around. And this presents new, daily experiences for them — and teachable moments for us as moms.

stuck in middle: pre-teenBeing stuck in the middle is a difficult phase. And it’s a difficult one for moms to help our kids manage. It’s not an easy, slightly-winding and flat path through a beautiful forest. Imagine instead an unpredictable, jagged, back and forth, uphill and downhill path. The pre-teen years are TOUGH!

The typical time that my little one bares her soul is when she is supposed to be going to sleep. I’ve heard my share of entertaining, random facts from the day during this time. I’d love for her be drifting off into a nice, peaceful sleep. But I know that 10-15 more minutes of her sharing with me will be just as good for her as the sleep itself. These talks have made us both laugh and cry, but we always feel better before a night of rest.

Tips and Talking Points

One thing is sure: as the mom of a pre-teen, you will be caught off-guard. So I wanted to share here are a few tips on how to prepare yourself for these heart-stopping and mind-stumping moments.

If they swear you to secrecy, tell them up front that is something you may not be able to do.  You can promise to not share it on social media — or with anyone else who doesn’t need to know, but the safety of another has to come first. You may have to repeat this on several different occasions until you feel they truly understand. Being honest with them before even hearing what they have to say will be very helpful in the long run. Then you will laugh (and breath a sigh of relief) when they tell you something as silly as, “Billy slipped on his way to the teacher’s desk, fell, and his papers went flying.” But at least s/he knows you would help someone who truly needed the information shared with another parent or the authorities.

Work on your poker face, especially if they appear to uncomfortable with the subject matter. You will get all kinds of interesting facts and daily run-downs that may surprise you, but do your best to not overreact. They need to know that you will consistently be a non-judgmental sounding board. They need to know where to turn for help when they need to navigate difficult relationships and experiences. Pre-teens need feedback and gentle suggestions for how they could have handled the situation more appropriately or lovingly. Responding very straight-faced and “matter of factly” will keep them coming back for more wisdom and advice.

Be prepared to have them share inappropriate subject matter anywhere, anytime. This could be at bedtime — as it is in my house — while they’re in the shower, or somewhere as public as H-E-B. It could even happen at library time after school — for the entire library to hear.  As their parent, take the opportunity to turn it into a teaching moment about conversations and privacy, even though the person of interest is not present.

Know that what your child thinks is important IS important to them. For them, being heard is just as important as what advice you have to give. If your child knows you are willing to listen, they will be willing to talk. So give them the chance now to be heard so they will come to you with the BIG stuff.

Think on your toes! We have had many experiences that may have prepared us for anything our pre-teens may throw at us. But we likely never had to deal with cyber-bullying when we were young. Another big one is how to navigate informing another parent what your child saw them write on their friends’ social media page. Yikes!

Always come from a place of love, for everyone involved. With all the negativity and hatred in our modern world, we could all use more encouragement and loyalty, and it starts with us. We fail our children and future generations if we fail to pass on love and compassion.

If you have a child anywhere between a newborn through mid-elementary, thank your lucky stars. While all stages have their challenges, at least you are not dealing with newly surfacing hormones and awkward conversations — YET.

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One Response to Stuck in the Middle: Advice for the Parents of Pre-Teens

  1. Deborah January 15, 2018 at 8:17 am #

    This is a great post! I have a middle school boy, so our conversations may be a bit different, but this year especially has been an adjustment. And he totally wants to spend 10 more minutes talking at bedtime. 🙂

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