Staying connected as kids approach the teen years and become more independent may become a challenge for parents, but it's as important as ever — if not more so now. While activities at school, new interests, and a growing social life become more important to growing kids, parents are still the anchors, providing love, guidance, and support.
And that chat with 12 year olds provides a sense of security and helps build the resilience kids needs to roll with life's ups and downs. Your preteen may act as if your guidance isn't welcome or needed, and even seem embarrassed by you at times.
This is when kids start to confide more in peers and request their space and privacy — expect the bedroom door to be shut more often. As hard as it might be to swallow these changes, try not to take them personally. They're all s of growing independence.
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The best way to weather them is through balance: allow growing room by expanding boundaries, but continue to enforce important house rules and family values. For example, who asks for more privacy might be allowed to earn the privilege getting a bedroom door lock by doing some household chores for a set amount of time. But you don't have to let go entirely.
You're still a powerful influence — it's just that your preteen might be more responsive to the example you set rather than the instructions you give. So practice what you'd like to preach; just preach it a little less for now. Modeling the qualities that you want your preteen to learn and practice — respectful communication, kindness, healthy eating, and fulfilling everyday responsibilities without complaining — makes it more likely that your son or daughter will comply.
Small, simple things can reinforce connection. Make room in your schedule for special times, take advantage of the routines you already share, and show that you care.
Reviewed by: Maia Noeder, PhD. Larger text size Large text size Regular text size.