5 parenting skills to get right from preschool to pre-teen
Written by: Melanie Arons
After working with preteens, teenagers and their parents for over a decade both as a teacher and a therapist, I have learned several ways that this age group will typically respond best to their parents. These ah-ha moments helped me to discover the most successful ways parents can communicate with their child starting at an any age. In fact, if parents can get these skills in place early on, it will pave a much easier road to those dreaded teenage years.
5 Parenting-musts as children quickly grow from preschooler to pre-teen:
#1. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences.
I have so many adolescent clients say that their parents just don’t understand them. I think that when parents are honest and share successes and mistakes that they made, it helps adolescents to feel like their parent understands what it is like to be a teenager or preteen.
#2. Praise is extremely important.
Adolescents often feel like everyone is judging them. Add that to the feelings of awkwardness and insecurity that go along with puberty and the peer pressure. Just as your child took their first step or learned to read, it remains so important for kids this age to hear praises from their parents. Even though they may act like they do not care what their parents think, every child to teenager seeks approval from their parent(s) or guardian. This is particularly important in helping your child shape a positive self-esteem, which will lead to making good choices.
#3. Validate your child.
Validating your child shows you understand them, avoids a power struggle and helps them feel important. All of these things are important for building confidence and independence. You can validate your child by simply saying, “You feel _________ because _________.” For example, “You feel frustrated because you can’t sleep over at Elle’s house this weekend.” Validating doesn’t mean that you agree with the choice that your child made or agree to what your child is asking, but it shows that you understand how they feel and why.
#4. Show that you trust them but still set boundaries.
My parents used to say to me that they would trust me unless I give them a reason not to trust me. This made me feel in control of myself and independent. Now that your adolescent child is getting ready to become an adult, he/she needs to feel in control of his/her fate and feel trusted. However, this does not mean that you cannot have rules and boundaries for your children of any age. In order for a child to feel safe and protected, they need to have clear rules and boundaries. However, don’t be afraid to loosen the rules as your child gets older. Try giving your adolescent child a later bedtime/curfew or more free time with friends to show them that you acknowledge that they are becoming more responsible and that you trust them.
#5. Take interest in their interests.
I once had a twelve year old client tell me that she gets Barbie dolls every year for Christmas even though she has not played with Barbie dolls since she was seven. She was using this example to express to me just how much she felt that her parents did not care about her. Taking interest in your child's interests and activities shows that you care about the things that that they enjoy and encourages them to share more about themselves with you. It also validates their interests as something important to you, which builds self-esteem as well. Learning more about your child and listening to what they want to talk about, creates a bond that will positively shape your relationship for the long term.
Melanie Arons, LCPC is a psychotherapist who works at Flourish Studios’ psychotherapy practice and has built her practice helping parents, children and families struggling with behavioral or learning difficulties. Melanie specializes in working with adolescents and their parents as well. Melanie is also a mother and proud member of NPN. More information about Melanie can be found at www.icanflourish.com and she can be contacted at Melanie@icanflourish.com or (312) 316-6362.