I used to share a lot more of my parenting struggles with the world via the blog. While I still feel there is benefit to parents sharing their struggles and successes it becomes murky territory now that the children are older. Their privacy and opinions of what should or should not be shared in such a public way need to be considered. So, I find myself being quiet more and more. And that’s okay. Does that mean I have this parenting thing figured out and my life is perfect over here? Of course not. Here are some things I can share.
Oh the tween years. Those years where we’re going along and all of a sudden, raging balls of hormonal monsters that have taken over our sweet innocent babies. One minute, you’re laughing and enjoying yourself with these cool kids, thinking, “This is fun. Parenting tweens is going to be a piece of cake. All those people who told horror stories must not have had my excellent parenting skills. ” and then the next, the child next to you is sprouting horns, sobbing uncontrollably and ripping your heart out by telling you the exact reasons why you are the worst mom on the planet. Um, so I’ve heard… not that that’s ever happened to me or anything.
My girls are now 10, almost 12 and 15. So, we have made it over the hump with the eldest, trading the tween years off for a different set of teen challenges, and are well into the crazy years that classify as “tween” with the other two. I certainly make my share of parenting mistakes, and there are times when I have no idea what the “right” parenting choice is for a given scenario, but I did want to share some things with you in one area that seem to be working for us.
When you stop to think of all the technology available to our children that didn’t even exist when we were there age, it boggles the mind. We joke with them about having to use phones that were actually connected to walls with a cord and using a library with a card catalog to do our research, but the fact of the matter is, these things don’t even compute in their brain. It’s how we felt when our parents described to us when they got their first black and white television. We understood, but couldn’t really imagine the absence of all color on our tv set. As parents, we need to embrace the technology, because like it or not, it is a huge part of our children’s world. So, how do we do this?
Knowledge is Power
First of all, you need to know what your kids are using. Make it a point to know what they’re looking at online. Who are their favorite “You-tubers”? Listen to the music they listen to, even if you don’t like it. What games are they playing? What apps do they use? All my kids devices (even my 15 year old’s) send me a request for approval before they can download any new app. If you are allowing your tween to be on social media apps, you need to use them and understand how they work. Know what dangers are out there, and set appropriate boundaries and guidelines for your family.
My tweens are not allowed on social media, much to their chagrin. Even though many of their friends have Instagram and Snapchat accounts, I am holding out, at least until the terms-of-use age, which is 13. Once they reach that age, we will talk, and some social media will be allowed, with strict privacy settings. I know that this is not where many family’s land on this issue, but this is where we have chosen to land. So much talk has been given to bullying lately, and I think it has merit. It is much easier to be mean to someone when you are doing it remotely and not in person. People can be mean and hateful – especially kids of this age. I don’t feel like my daughters need the pressure of having to deal with that in a time when they are already so vulnerable to peer opinion. If it means my kids are angry at me for not being able to have social media accounts like ALL THEIR FRIENDS, then so be it. They may not agree, but they are still children, and it’s my right as a parent to still shield them when I can. There are plenty of options in the real world for them to get their feelings hurt and for situations arise for us to talk through without opening the can of worms that is social media.
Use Technology to Connect
There’s no getting around it. Tweens are awkward. Conversations can be awkward. Surprisingly, something I have found that has helped the lines of communication stay open with my tweens is texting. I am not suggesting that you have difficult conversations over text instead of in person, but hear me out. A large part of the way our kids connect with others these days is via texting. They don’t even talk on the phone… a thing I don’t necessarily understand as a parent… it’s all via texts. A while back I started an experiment with my middle child. I started making more of a point to text her throughout the day when we were apart. My kids love snarky or funny meme images, so I began collecting ones that they would find funny or interesting and texting them to her during the day. I would text her after school before I got home to ask how her day went, or just randomly quick texts through the day. I found that she would respond with more verbiage in her texts than she would when I asked her in person. In person, I’d get the standard, “Fine” but in text, I’d get more detail. After a while, I started getting more detail in person as well.
Constantly Preach Awareness
I can never reiterate enough how important it is to teach our children to guard what you put into print. I teach my children that once it’s out there, it’s out there. Anything they write online or send in a text or in an app can always come back to haunt them. If you send a “private” text to someone badmouthing someone else, you have no way of knowing that they are taking a screen shot and sending it out to that other person. Just as they need to be mindful of how their spoken words affect others, they need to be aware that what may seem like a harmless text can hurt someone’s feelings.
While technology can be scary and certainly has its challenges, there’s no reason to be afraid of it. Embrace technology, and more importantly, embrace your tweens. As much as that scary hormonal monster scares you, imagine what it feels like for it to be IN your body! Our kids need all the love and positive affirmation we can give them. Let’s help them navigate this scary world knowing that they have us on their team.