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Words with Kids: Connecting with Tweens

We have two “tweenagers” in our house. Being connected with parents is one major factor for tweens and tweens to be mentally and emotionally healthy -no matter what they say!

Sometimes, connecting and communicating with my tweens has to do with spending time together; sometimes it has to do more with watching and learning about them from the sidelines.  While I am no expert, I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

Individual Dates

Whether it is a Daddy-Daughter Dance, sporting event, rock climbing, the movie theater, visiting coffee shops, breakfast… Pretty much anything that is fun is a good idea!

The one-on-one time is priceless.

They can stay up later and do more things, so finding something new that they are now “big enough” to try is so much fun.

Errands 

This may not seem like a fancy way to connect, but now that going to the grocery store is no longer a major military operation, I like to include them in getting the job done.

They can find items in the store and bring them back to the cart. They can help to comparison shop to determine which is the better deal – middle schools rock this task! This is also a great time to talk about our food budget and how we decide how much we can spend on food.

Going to Target and Walmart have also been great times to have conversations about what they think they need. Sometimes they focus on things like video games and candy, but other times I find out about other things like they need deodorant or they mention that all of their underwear is too small or that everyone has light up shoes… I never know.

It does not mean that I get them light up shoes on that shopping trip (although underwear and deodorant a are likely to be purchased on the spot!), but it is a great way to start conversations.

Family Movie Night

If we are at home on a Friday night, it is family movie night at our house.

We get in our pajamas and curl up on the couch – usually by 6 pm because we are all tired from the week – and watch a movie together. We all look forward to it and enjoy discussing what movie we want to watch. I love finding out what my kids are interested in. Harry Potter? Spy Kids?

Sometimes my husband and I make the decision, but we make an effort to alternate with letting the kids select a movie that they want to watch. It is a great way to understand what they are interested in, and often leads our discussion into what other kids are talking about at school.

Family Happy Hour 

Often ,we are also home on Saturday night!

Following up to Friday movie night is Saturday happy hour night – the G rated kind! We pick some kind of drink for the evening, whether it is lemonade or hot chocolate or kombucha (seriously: kombucha!). I hit up Trader Joe’s for tiny tacos and meatballs and any other finger food that sounds good. Just add veggies and dip and some grapes, and call it dinner. We turn on music and just hang out and talk or read. It is cozy and low key and fun.

Get Involved at School 

Volunteering for anything, even if my tweens tell me they cannot bear to be seen with me, is great a way to see how things are going at school.

For my middle schooler, I decorated the bulletin board for the parent-teacher group. For my son, I helped supervise the ice cream Sunday bar for their Valentine’s Day Party. Observing them at school is like viewing wildlife in a natural habitat. I learn a lot by how they act in class and seeing who their friends are. It can be eye-opening!

Invite Their Friends to Join In

Over to the house, out for ice cream, to a movie.

This may not seem like “connecting,” but believe me, this does a multitude of things. My kids like knowing that their friends are welcome at our home, and I like knowing who their friends are. Also, if I am driving them somewhere in the car, having a friend along deems me completely invisible! Suddenly, I am privy to all the dirt on the latest music, fashion, boy/girl crushes and other very fascinating information. This can help me understand my kid in ways that my direct questioning never does.

Connecting and communicating can be a challenge as they grow and change and yearn for more independence, but still need connection with us. How do you connect with your tweenager? Let us know your tips!

Want to read more posts in our “Words with Kids” series? Click here!

This is the fifth th in a series about communication between you and your child. Why focus on communication? Brazilian educator Paulo Freire says it best: "Yet only through communication can human life hold meaning." We talk to our children from birth; we spend countless hours and millions of words communicating with them over a lifetime. It's critical to our success as parents to communicate well. Our conversations and connections give lives meaning for both us as parents and our children. Over the next several months, we will continue to explore ideas of what good communication looks like in different facets of parenthood.

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