5 ways to foster independence in your preteen
The preteen years (or tweens) are hard for everyone to say the least. We get it, one minute you are telling them what to do, the next you wish they would just take care of it themselves (and then they aren’t sure what they should be doing themselves). You might have 5 kids and one of them to take the reigns in certain areas, or they might be your only ‘baby’ and you know you need to take a step back.
There is a big gap between 9 and 12 that make up the tween years, so it’s important to work out how you want to approach things at different ages, but we’ve come up with some ways that can help you navigate this tricky time and give them (and maybe yourself) a bit more space.
- Take a step back
Helicopter mum alert! If that’s you and your child can’t even go to the toilet without wondering where they went it might be time to take a step back. This isn’t something you’re asking your tween to do, but rather by changing your own behaviour, might instil some changes in them (and a little less stress I imagine). Try not to get involved with friendship issues or school work problems immediately. Give them space to critically think about how to navigate the situation and test their own theories, all the while letting them know you are here for them if they want to workshop any ideas. This will hopefully start to build resilience and we all know this is super helpful to have in the ‘real’ world.
- Teach them to talk
Open communication is the key to any relationship and is a great way to foster trust. By being truthful and honest to them in an age appropriate way, will let them know that they can do the same in return. Be clear with your expectations e.g. yes you have to tell us who you’re hanging out with after school, where you’ll be and if there is any adults around. Make it clear that the more everyone talks about all topics, the more trust is built and in turn they can start to expect a longer leash (be careful through, Rover might get a little jealous).
- Give them responsibility
At any age, being part of the family may come with some responsibilities and contribution to the household…little kids might make their beds, while older kids might do the washing up. This will vary between family to family and so as part of growing up, giving your tween some extra responsibility will start to prepare them for independent life. This might mean graduating from washing up to mowing the lawn, doing the laundry or cooking a family meal. If you end up giving pocket money, then maybe let them decide what they can spend it on also. By feeling like they are helping in a meaningful way, kids will grow self confidence and invaluable life experience (and you might avoid a midnight phone call 5 years from now).
- Teach them to problem solve
Preparing your child for any situation is nearly impossible, we just don’t know what life will throw at them. We of course don’t want to scare them, but also don’t want them to be sheltered so much that they aren’t prepared. To navigate this tricky area, stick to teaching the basics – What to do in an emergency, to go with their gut feelings, understanding their limits and being ok with sticking to them and knowing when it’s time to ask for help. Maybe try a little role playing or ask them what they would do in certain situations.
- Be guided by them
Taking the lead from your child might seem counter intuitive, but they are the ones that know what they ultimately need as an individual. Be guided by what they are willing to do, their personalities and their levels of comfort. Respect where they are at developmentally and don’t push too hard, but encourage them to try new things they are interested in. This will start to make them feel supported and reduce anxiety and foster eventually stepping outside their comfort zones. Remember no one likes a stage mum!