Post written by Blended Family columnist Melissa Gorzelanczyk of Peace & Projects.

Kids grow up so fast.
Today, my step kids are ages 11 and 12. It seems like one minute we were reading Guess How Much I Love You, the next discussing drugs, sex and alcohol.
Yes, the years between childhood and adolescence can send any parent scrambling for answers. In our house, improving the way we parent is a never ending discussion. This keeps our marriage happy, too.
Happy kids = happy life = happy wife.
Corey wrote about how kids benefit from a strong marriage. I believe learning new ways to keep the peace is all part of that process.
If you’re raising tweens – kids between the ages of 9 – 12 – you’ve probably felt some degree of helplessness. Kids start to act like toddlers again, only this time, it’s just not as cute. They might:

  • Scream “no.”
  • Stomp their feet.
  • Throw tantrums.
  • Cry more than usual.
  • Want to do everything on their own (especially if they aren’t old enough yet).

They way you approach these behaviors isn’t the same now as it was when they were little.

As parents, you really start to realize: You can’t control your kids.

Building a positive tween-parent relationship now will set the stage for (possibly) stormier seas ahead during the teen years. Unfortunately for some, this middle stage can result in early resentment and dysfunction.
The good news is you can help avoid that.
Here are some tips to help you build a good relationship with your tween, courtesy of my family’s counselor, James T. Kirsch, M.S., LPC, NCC, Board Certified Clinical Psychotherapist.

Do’s…

Do create a forum such as a family meeting or weekly mealtime to “check in” and touch base with your kids, whether or not they think it is corny. Do it.
Do keep in contact with their teachers, but more loosely than in grade school. They want to start feeling more mature and independent, and less like they are in diapers.
Do give them choices when it comes to earning privileges or punishments. Since they are craving independence, this will be more effective than just telling them how it is.
Do get to know their friends and friend’s parents in a way that is not embarrassing or intrusive, but casual and connected.
Do talk to them about the hard things – drugs, sex and peer pressure.
Do be sensitive to the hormonal changes they are going through. Their moods may seem erratic or change all of the sudden. (Just don’t let them off the hook for disrespecting you.)
Do reassure them that you will be there for them no matter what. Offer unconditional love and open communication – it will be well received and understood by them.

Don’ts…

Do not scold your tween for being normal. Remember, normal can sometimes mean weird, different and even offensive in a parent’s eyes. Compare it to modern culture and what is happening in today’s world. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of comparing your tween’s life with that of your own when you where growing up.
Do not make assumptions about your teen and always ask questions. The idea here is no question is a stupid question.
Do not give them more responsibility or independence than they can handle as you may be setting them up for failure. Enforce school routines and expectations around the house. Just because they don’t want you to nag them about getting their homework done doesn’t mean you should listen.
Do not break their trust. Open and direct communication can be beneficial tokeep trust going.
Do not side with their friends or other parents when they are in trouble. First,hear them out and decide how you are going to deal with what happened from your own style and perspective of parenting.
Do not overlook anything. It’s okay to do a DEA-style sweep of their rooms once in a while. They are exposed to so much these days and peer pressure is huge!
Do not overdo punishment for an offense that was committed. Also, give them a chance to earn back time for good behavior. This teaches accountability, earning things and forgiveness.

Changes and stages

I think tweens can be tons of fun, especially as they begin to form opinions about the world and current events. Enjoy this stage. Let them spread their wings a little; be their guide when they make mistakes. Talk about everything.
The good news is that tweens still love spending time with Mom and Dad.
Savor that while you can.
What are some more tips for parenting tweens?

(photo source)

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