GUEST POST BY HEMA IDHAYAN
Despite being a sassy and cool mom from the beginning, I am being shut out of my daughter’s room these days! At times she demands privacy. I am beginning to realize how uncool I have suddenly become. Trust me, being the mother of a tweenager is not the most ego-satisfying period in a woman’s life.
Twelve years ago, the very thought of being a mother was scary. Holding a brand-new baby in my hands after a C-Section, I was totally clueless about what to do next? Back then, I thought that that was the hardest phase of my life. But, hold on! The present seems to be way tougher than that!
So, what am I dealing with? Yes, the Tween Attitude of my preadolescent daughter! Pre-teen or tween is the stage between childhood and adolescence. The kids of age 10 and 13 belong to this category.
Without warning, our cute and cuddly little munchkins, who would curl up on our laps and spill out all their secrets, suddenly want nothing to do with us! At this point, we notice that their emotions are intensifying, and their moods are fluctuating. Tween is a phase when you encounter significant changes in your child’s physical, mental, emotional, and social development. So, it is totally normal for our kids to start turning away from us and relying more on their friends. Sad, but true!
A preteen, or tween, as we call the preadolescence kids nowadays, is a deadly combination of teenage-dom and childhood. As parents, we might get a shock when they begin to act like teenagers. Most of the times our guidance is not welcome. But do not be fooled because they are still kids. They will surprise you with their ability to argue brilliantly, but then do foolish things. They think they can make their own decisions, but what they do not understand is that they are still too young to recognize their limitations. The challenge with tweenager is that, while they may want us to see them as cool, bold and self-sufficient, they may still be holding their teddy bears or worrying about the dark little monsters under their beds at night.
At this stage, I feel my daughter is hereditarily hardwired to believe that we (her parents, especially me) are stupid and ignorant. Oh, wait! Did it ring a bell? Yes! Reminiscing my own preteen days when I would revolt against my mother. A sudden realisation struck me because at some point in time I, too, thought that my mother was uncool. And, now, I have become just as uncool—to my daughter.
Karma hits back! Or was it a kick?
Time to tweak my parenting skills I guess!
These days my emotionally volatile daughter explodes numerous times, each time with a different emotion. Anger, happiness, sadness, loneliness, fears, etc. erupt for no reason. She is confused and frustrated by the fact that these feelings come without a warning, and they do not always make sense to her. Phew! I know I am going to have a tough time ahead. She is already testing my limit and my patience level.
These days, the modern amenities and gadgets, which were meant to make life easier, have actually allowed relationships to easily fade away instead. Today’s kids are exposed to so much more than what we were at their age! We also had the same hormones, same schoolwork, same emotional imbalances, and similar friendship challenges, but our tweens are facing all this along with the added challenges pertaining to the virtual world.
So, as parents, we need to repetitively refurbish our relationship with our children. As a parent, we need to keep tabs on our kid’s life as well as what is going on inside their head. I resort to doing small and simple things together with my daughter, like cleaning a room, decorating, baking, etc., which, I believe, reinforces the connection.
We also have simple rules like having dinner together with the television and mobiles turned off. Instead, we talk about activities, highlights of the day in general and plan a schedule for the next day. We try to make the regular household chores fun by getting everyone involved. Before retiring to bed, we sit together and read. Goodnight kisses and hugs matter a lot at any age, so push it until you can. We also watch movies together. This helps in enjoying each other’s company, learning what’s on their mind and communication with them about various things. Also, continue celebrating milestones if they would like to.
Communication is the key. Sometimes we may have to ask indirect questions to get the answers.
The most important thing, I’ve learnt as a mother, is to NOT depict yourself as a super-woman. Very often, as parents, we tend to show our children our strengths. But, we need to show them our weaknesses too. Show them that we are also human and we make mistakes, but we learn from them, too. This way, we can show our not-so-little-ones that it is absolutely safe to experience their full range of emotions and that it is alright not to be perfect.
As your child begins to go through puberty, there are fluctuations in their hormones and brain development, and these imbalances can drive them crazy. This is the result of hormones getting in sync. There are mood swings, tears shedding and pimples galore. While this is not a justification for their behaviour, it is a way to comprehend how treating them like adults, or like seven-year-olds, may not work too well.
Dealing with tweenagers is not an easy task. You have to be prepared to talk about puberty, hormonal changes, pimple outbreaks, body odour, menstruation, etc. We should let them understand that it is just a growth spurt. And, all these noticeable changes are natural. It is also important for them to know that just like their outer body is undergoing alterations; likewise, changes are also happening on the inside as well. It is advisable to make them aware that while their body adjusts to the new hormones, so will their mind.
Do not take the bait! Stay calm and logical. Let them not emotionally blackmail you and get things done their way. Listen to them, but do not solve all their problems for them. Protecting our children, from the harsh realities of life, takes away their valuable learning opportunities.
All that we need to realize is that nature’s purpose of pre-pubescence is preparing the body for procreation. But, at the same time, it doesn’t mean that they are emotionally prepared for it. Let them know that they are not alone and, sooner or later, all their friends would go through this too.
As for you, constantly remind yourself that this, too, shall pass. This is the phase where they need more of our time and attention. We also need to ensure that they get plenty of rest and eat well.
Coming from a family of over-concerned parents, I had decided that I would never hold the reigns of my daughter’s life. Some parents, sensing a loss of control over their tween’s behaviour, suddenly curb their child’s freedom. Others avoid all conflict by letting them loose for fear that their kids will push them away.
But, we need not do either. It all lies in finding the perfect balance between the two.
If we are too strict and make all the decisions for them, we may be able to make our tweens fall in line for a while, but at what cost? And, until when? Some tweens raised in strict environments will eventually explore their boundaries by lying while others may miss out on the ability to develop problem-solving skills.
Yet, being too liberal does not help, either. Tweens need clear structure and guidelines to live by as they start to explore the real world outside.
So, as their parent, it is up to us to set our family’s core values and communicate them through our words and actions.
REMEMBER, our influence runs deeper than what we tend to imagine.
Now, I totally understand the true emotion behind these wonderful lines from Khalil Gibran’s poem On Children:
“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hema Idhayan is a writer, blogger, life-skills trainer, philanthropist and a vivid traveller from Kerala. She has done her Masters in English Literature & Language and PGD in Journalism. Her interests are learning, unlearning, and re-learning, studying human behaviour/nature, exploring ancient history, reading, and dreaming. While in Bangalore, she worked as a corporate trainer at Infosys BPO. She now lives in Manila, Philippines with her loving husband and 11-year-old daughter.