You'll know when you've entered the "Land of the Tweenager" when your darling little girl becomes overly reactive to just about everything and is a drama queen. She uses a lot of "absolute" words...never, always, all, everybody, nobody, none. There's no middle ground. Your son is now defiant occasionally and at other times, just ignores you and walks away. Are you spinning yet?
Adolescence is an inside-out job, like the rest of life. A lot goes on in a mother's womb before you get to hold Baby and the process of puberty is no different. For each kid, the time frame is different, but we're suspicious that sexual maturity "starts cooking" at about 9 or 10.
I'm saying that they can't control it. Nature is doing Her thing and you'd better get with the program if you want to avoid needing bail money. You'll have to take charge, as usual, and run alongside, just like when they were learning anything requiring balance..skating, skiing, riding a bike or a skateboard. You're always their spotter. You are helping them maintain balance through a time of significant and widespread change.
You can do this (Seriously? What choice do you have?) You just needed to know the "why" behind the "what".
I've introduced some of the "why" to you, so let me give you a bit more:
- They have no idea "why" they're acting the way they do; they just "feel" different. Please don't tell them about puberty at this point unless it's necessary (your daughter started her period) . Kids who are 8 don't get it and don't care.
- Their hormones are ramping up.
- Their bodies are growing and they're like puppies...big ears, feet, long legs...the usual. Most "systems" are out of sync.
- Their stressors increase due to social demands and school work, especially if they are involved in sports, performing arts or other interests.
- Their lives are compounded by the "shrapnel" of tensions at home or health issues.
You didn't take the labor pains personally. You didn't accuse your child of intentionally hurting you (it's another story about the hubs, however!) and hopefully, you didn't scream and swear at your child (again, it's another story about the hubs). You accepted the process as a natural part of "what happens".
The same is true here. Your tweenager is giving birth to the adult they'll become, so we've got to get this part right or there will be "side effects" for years to come.
This is now the time to teach them what it looks like to be an adult. I know you're doing it under tough circumstances. I know you're driving the car while you work on it. Every time you think you're dialed in to your kid's phase, the next one is forming in the distance. Think thunderstorm. The best way to teach is to be the goal. Yes, you be the goal.
Show them the kind of adult you want them to become and it's not just a larger version of them. And, I'm asking you to do all of this while you hold down a job, maintain the marriage, cook the meals, do the laundry and clean the house, run everybody everywhere they need and want to be and do the grocery shopping and my favorite, "all other duties as required". Of course, when your doctor tells you to get some rest, you don't have enough energy to tell him to go fly a kite. Such is life for now. It gets better. I'm not lying.
Think about this. The first element of interaction might be visual if they're walking through the door or getting into the car, but it's the second element, the verbal segment of the interaction, that will set the tone for whether or not "things" are going to go well or if you're headed for a "death spiral".
I'm not kidding. Ask yourself:
- Am I talking to her like I used to...like she's a kid or am I talking to a growing person?
- Am I making them part of the conversation instead of "directing" them? They've got brains, legs, arms and attitude, lean in and use it to your advantage. If you have to do something with them at a certain time, give them some brief reminders throughout the day, so it's not a complete surprise which it will be anyway. Tell them it's just as much a reminder for you as it is for them.
- Am I keeping it light? Use humor. Just know that if you're sarcastic, they may not "get it" and an eruption may ensue. Stay with the safe stuff. When they're older, they'll be less sensitive (oh, we can only hope) and they'll be more fun to kid around with.
- Am I overtalking? Mothers...Don't Don't Don't overtalk. Stick with the facts. They're done listening to us.
- Am I trying to force something here? We don't have as much power with them as their friends. You'll get your power back when they're in their early 20s when they need you to help them with the next phase of their lives (buying durable goods, signing leases).
- Am I taking into consider his stressors? Am I pushing what I need to do instead of taking the 20,000 foot view into consideration?
- What will be the consequences of how am I about to handle this? You can only guess at this one. If you wait a moment, the answer will change.
I made it through by slowing myself down whenever I encountered The Kid. Our son was and is a high-speed kind of guy. His verbal skills are lethal. His mind is wicked fast and his cognitive skills are terrifying. Then and now, he could take me out in 2.4 seconds...long before I heard the bomb go off.
I'm no verbal lightweight, but he had me back on my heels on more than one occasion and I've jousted with some fairly high-powered attorneys. They've got nothing on The Kid. I didn't get to a level playing field until I figured out the power of being the Momma. I took a breath, just as I did when giving birth to him.
If I "slowed my roll", I learned to avoid provoking him with my "delayed" parenting skills. (Delayed because I wasn't keeping up with his "shapeshifting" development.) If I could just get to "my corner" and figure out "who" he was that day and hour, I could make contact with this alien. Yes, it can be that challenging.
I spoke softly, got in his personal space so I could corral his attention, stated just the facts and eventually, trained him to be receptive to me and not avoidant. We survived. We actually like each other. Well, most of the time. We just can't talk about politics...just sayin'...oh mercy, mercy me...
Please know that this is a slow and steady process. Practice and small degrees of progress are all that's required. You can't be perfect. Don't even try.
Below are some* articles I've written that will give you the finer points of this "new" communication style you're adopting to meet the demands of your son or daughter's rapid growth.
Just do the best you can, Claudia
Join me on Facebook at Dr. Claudia McCulloch
*Uh oh...this quite a list. I've written nearly 200, so I selected ones I thought could really help. Pick a topic and go for it. Just click on the blue font and off you go!
You're All Talk...Your Tuned Out Kids
When to Shut Up & Other Life Lessons
Gorillas and Teenagers...Yeah, I See the Resemblance
Interact With, Don't Interrogate Your Kids to Find Out What You Need to Know About their Lives
4 Questions to Ask Your Kid Everyday
Goodness of Fit
Being a R.A.N. Parent
Sticks and Stones Will Break Your Bones
It's Just so Hard to Say
Can You Tell if Your Child is Lying?
Ten Ways to Destroy a Child
Not "To" Them or "For" Them, but "With" Them
What's the Big F**king Deal? Swearing and the Kids
Upside Down, Backwards and 90 Miles and Hour
The 11th Way to Destroy A Child