The three P’s-Parenting Preteens and Puberty – can create many family challenges. I imagine if anyone was to look back at this turbulent transition in their own life, one would be reminded of the unpredictable feelings and thoughts associated with puberty. Navigating puberty not only affects the preteen or teen, but can even consume the entire family, The result can be intense family conflict. However, even though it is probably a popular belief that the combination of the three P’s- Parenting Preteens and Puberty brings about many family challenges, it does not mean that this time needs to result in a chaotic and even a disconnected family filled with conflict. The family that chooses to face these often turbulent years with willingness, an open mind, cohesiveness, and patience may actually become closer and more connected. To do this though, it is crucial for all to learn and use healthy tools to tolerate the discomfort and frustration and support their child. It is also important to learn to become proactive instead of reactive.
So, I have written this blog to bring awareness to some family activities that will help the preteen and family connect in a healthy way and to show how to overcome some of the family challenges that arise when trying to plan and implement activities with a preteen. These preteen and adolescent years bring with them a unique set of challenges. A preteen is beginning to struggle with being more influenced by their peer groups and experiencing a slight glimmer of having more of a sense of self outside of the family unit. Add puberty into the mix and then begin to fully understand the experience of a preteen.
- Confusion around their bodies, internally and externally.
- Increased concern and focus about body image, weight, appearance
- Fears surrounding changes occurring within body.
- Increased fears of what others may be thinking of her/him
- Comparing self to others.
- Highly sensitive
- Mood swings and feelings of uncertainty.
- Increased exposure to peer pressure
This confusing time may also be the beginning of a power struggle. This may increase the many challenges that families already face when trying to plan and actually implement activities with a preteen. Here are some suggestions to overcome these challenges and successfully break through potential resistance and disinterest from the preteen:
- Give them words to help them express what they may not otherwise have the words to do so.
- Empathize and confirm their experience, by stating things such as “I imagine you might feel (angry or sad)” or “I understand why you might be annoyed, etc but I love you and want to work on having a closer relationship”
- Ask your preteen what they may need from you? Evaluate if expectations are realistic or unrealistic.
- Ask your preteen what might be of interest to them specifically?
- Show your preteen that you are interested, even if they seem disinterested, that you are engaging, even if they display resistance.
- Do your best to not allow your own frustrations or feelings of rejection to cause you to withdraw or become disengaged
In order for parents engage preteens more when planning family activities, they need to find out more about the child’s interests. The best way to do this is to TALK TO THEM, ASK THEM…. Here are some other suggestions to use to help develop a healthy relationship and connect with your preteen:
- Make sure to know what interests your preteen and find and some activities that cater to his/his interests. For instance, if she/he is interested in a particular sport- then go to a sporting event
- Take the time to get to know your preteen, find out their likes and dislikes and LISTEN to them.
- Take interest in their music- share your playlists with one another
- Ask your preteen to share what they might may like in regards to what they are seeing online. Let them know that this is not to judge them but instead understand them.
- Get a manicure and pedicure together and if you cannot afford to go out to get one then give each other a manicure and/or pedicure at home.
- Play dress up moms and daughters, put on music (your preteens of course), do a little fashion show and have some fun together.
- Cook a meal together as a family.
- Watch some old family movies together and look through some old family albums. Share your wedding video with your preteen.
- Go to a movie
- Go to a creative outlet- clay café (where each individual can create something special for whomever they may choose). It is an opportunity to share ideas, praise each other’s successes, and have light conversation.
This information is also reiterated in an article which I provided my professional input, Foster Healthy Communication: Tips for Parents to Get Through the Puberty Years by Shannon Philpott, published on mom.me. Remember, there is power in every voice and every action. So let us work together to learn and share how these three P’s- Parenting, Preteens, and Puberty – can bring about family cohesiveness instead of destructiveness.