Relationships in the pre-teen years
Family relationships change during adolescence, but they tend to stay strong right through these years. In fact, your child needs your family’s love and support as much as she did when she was younger.
At the same time, your child will want more privacy and more personal space as he gets older. This doesn’t necessarily mean your child has something to hide. It’s just a natural part of adolescence.
Children also need more responsibility as they grow towards young adulthood. How quickly you hand over responsibility to your child depends on many factors – your own comfort level, your family and cultural traditions, your child’s maturity and so on.
To learn how to make safe and responsible decisions for themselves, teenagers need your advice, support and monitoring. The best monitoring is low key, although there’ll be times when it’s OK for you to ask your child for specific information about where she’s going and who she’s with.
Trust is the key to finding a balance between your child’s need for privacy and responsibility and your need to know what’s going on. If you and your child trust each other and stay connected, he’ll be more likely to share what he’s up to, stick to the rules, and try to live up to your expectations.
Staying connected with your child
You can stay connected
and build your relationship with your child by using unplanned, everyday interactions – a casual chat over the washing-up, for example. Or connecting can be planned – this is when you make special time to do things together that you both enjoy. Here are some ideas for planned and unplanned connecting:
- regular family meals
- fun family outings
- one-on-one time with your child
- family meetings to sort out problems
- simple, kind things – a pat on the back, a hug, a knock on the door before entering.
Communicating with your child
Active listening can be a powerful tool to improve communication and build a positive relationship with your child. This is because active listening is a way of saying to your child, ‘Right now, you’re the most important thing to me’.
Here’s a quick guide to active listening:
- Stop what you’re doing and give your child your full attention.
- Look at your child while she’s talking to you.
- Show interest, and show your child that you’re trying to understand.
- Listen without interrupting, judging or correcting.
- Concentrate hard on what your child is saying.
Negotiating and conflict management
Your child needs to learn about making decisions as part of his journey towards becoming an independent, responsible young adult. Negotiating can help your child learn to think through what he wants and needs, and communicate this in a reasonable way.
There’ll also be times when negotiating doesn’t work out, and you and your child disagree – this is normal. Dealing with conflict effectively can deepen and strengthen your relationship with your child in the end. It also helps your child learn some important life skills.
Sometimes you and your child might need to have difficult conversations. Sex, sexual orientation, masturbation, drugs, alcohol, academic difficulties, work and money are all topics that families can find difficult to talk about.
Tackling difficult conversations together is a sign that you and your child have a healthy relationship. It will help keep your relationship with your child close and trusting.
Here are some tips:
- Try to stay calm.
- Reassure your child that you do want to discuss the issue.
- Let your child know you’re happy that she wants to talk to you.
- If you need a bit of time to gather your thoughts, make a time to talk later on in the day.
- Actively listen to your child.
- Avoid being critical or judgmental, or getting emotional.
- Thank your child for coming to you.