What are some ways to connect with your preteen?
Don’t pretend you’re perfect.
Kids already put their parents on pedestals. The last thing you want to do is create the impression that you are perfect to your youth. It’s a lie- so don’t perpetuate it. When you mess up or hurt them be willing to apologize for that and get real about how you or they feel.
Take time to explain things.
It’s easier to give your youth blanket answers for everything like “my house, my rules” and it might even be faster, but taking time for those deep explanations will help them to understand the reason for your decisions. Take time to explain things and use examples from their life so that they can personalize them. Process the consequences and rewards of decisions with them. Get your child to think through their decisions and their friends’ decisions and those that they might admire in the media. This is a difficult part of being a teenager. They often can’t think through consequences. Their brains are learning to develop in this way.
Use my book as a guide.
In my book “For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman” I have questions at the end of each chapter on a range of topics. Use those questions as a guideline for conversations about identity and choices. Although the book is geared toward thirteen-year-olds and up you can still begin conversations about the important topics in the book early on. Use your discretion.
Take her out on regular dates with you just to talk.
I encourage you to make these planned times. This shows her that she is also a priority to you and that she is valued as a person. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. These can be anything from dinner dates to hikes. Let her know she is important to you and she’s a part of you. My mom once signed us up to take swimming lessons together (I still can’t really swim) It was so much fun preparing snacks, getting our bathing suits and towels packed, and then walking to the community center together. It was such a fond time that even as an adult I still remember how I felt with her. My mother was a single parent with her own business that required her to work a lot. At one point she was also in bible college. She didn’t have a lot of time between managing a household and doing the majority of the work but she made time for me.
Respect personal space and privacy.
Sometimes youth want to be left alone and there is nothing wrong with that. They are developing their own autonomy and boundaries. When you make plans with them do that with their consent. Don’t just assume they are available and don’t be upset if they would rather do something else. Find a healthy balance.
Talk about sex with your youth.
Don’t assume that they are ignorant about it because you haven’t spoken to them. They are learning things at school, from friends, on T.V. and social media. Things we as adults might not even notice could pique their interest and be forming unhealthy mindsets. There are so many T.V shows that teach young men how to think about young women that are damaging and that teach young women what to think about young men and themselves. A simple example of this is the show Fresh Prince of Bel-air. While the show is considered harmless by many and has positive factors, it also showed the main character Will being a hormone-driven womanizer.
Keep communication open. Sadly, many children and youth are sexually abused at an early age sometimes within their own homes by family members and family friends. Begin those sex conversations early. Teach them not to be manipulated, teach them healthy boundaries, and help protect them. Listen to them.
Learn more about how your teen’s mind works.
Have patience during those years. Therapy and counseling are great ways to learn skills to communicate with each other better and to seek help if you think anything could be an issue in the future. Don’t be scared to ask for professional help. It’s better to discover issues early on and deal with them rather than to wait until bad habits and behavior are cemented.
Creating a loving and secure environment is crucial to keeping communication open. Not everyone has the privilege to have a home that provides these things but simple measures can highlight love, and help create a connection even in chaotic times. Make connection a priority.