They’re too old for toys but way too young for boys – this period of transition can be a scary time for your 10- to 12-year-old. You’re still the parent – don’t let them forget that – but don’t come down too hard on them either. Keep things respectful both ways. Here’s how you can deal with their excuses for skipping family time:
EXCUSE #1 “I just don’t want to!”
WHAT IT MEANS They usually say this when you want to do things they are not interested in. It could be shopping, being forced to visit relatives or family friends, or doing activities with their younger siblings which they have outgrown. It’s not that they don’t want to spend time with you – it’s likely that they want the outing to be at least partially their idea. They’re beginning to develop an identity of their own so they may no longer want to accept your plans without question.
YOUR STRATEGY Let your child have a say in what the family will do, to motivate them to want to spend time with you. It will also boost their self-esteem. “Help them understand that just as they need their space, the family needs their love, time and presence,” says Eugenia Gajardo, psychotherapist and counsellor from Alliance Professional Counselling. When you are with your tweens, focus on enjoying their company rather than trying to correct them or give them advice. While it may not be easy to give up the teaching role, you can try using the time to build your relationship.
Related: When to say yes or no to your child
EXCUSE #2 “It’s boring!” or “We always do the same thing!”
WHAT IT MEANS Today’s tweens need constant stimulation. Weekends filled with the usual errands and activities can get monotonous for them.
YOUR STRATEGY Set aside time to do something new. Get creative: how about doing something nice for others together? Find volunteer opportunities that build on your child’s interests. It can give you time to talk and teach them the value of service. Take photos and later, discuss your experience: why you did it, how it felt and what you’ve learned. Or, you can watch their favourite TV shows or movies together – it can open up lots of conversations later.
EXCUSE #3 “I’m old enough to stay at home.”
WHAT IT MEANS Your tweens want to test their wings – it’s a signal that you need to try to understand their need for independence.
YOUR STRATEGY Give in occasionally – it sends the message that you are listening to them. Find a happy balance by agreeing and setting reasonable limits. You can allow them to stay home alone for a short while as you run an errand.
Related: She listens to inappropriate music
EXCUSE #4 “I want to be with my friends.”
WHAT IT MEANS If you’ve not made the effort to understand their world and what’s important to them, they’ll gravitate towards their peers or the people they think “get” them.
YOUR STRATEGY “Connect with them by being interested in what they’re interested in: music, sports or computers. Discover their world,” advises Eugenia. Support their experimenting. For example, don’t comment on their fashion choices as long as they’re suitably covered up. Show them you can be fun to hang out with too. If your tween is into video games, offer to play. They often find it hilarious to see how shockingly bad their parents are at gaming!
A version of this story first appeared in Simply Her.