While our two and a half year-old son is a ways off from the “tweens,” I am hungry to read everything and anything on this new, little mystical creature called boy in our house. This month’s “Western New York Family Magazine” is dedicated to raising boys. Please take note that this issue has many diverse articles on boys, covering everything from boys and literacy to gender stereotypes. I clutch this magazine to me like a reassuring embrace and turn to page 12 “Bond With Your Boy Through the Tween and Teen Years,” by Sue LeBreton, a health and wellness journalist. I’ve been told that what we are experiencing now with a two and a half year-old is both nothing and a preview of the teen years.
The article begins with LeBreton retelling a recent episode where her tween boy comes home making a statement about how badly his life stinks and how he wishes he was dead. Like most parents, five alarm bells started going off. After a professional psychological assessment and reassurance that her son is very and “merely” overwhelmed with the daily activities of his life, (a life that contains diabetes and new raging hormones to be managed) she realizes and is told that the best thing she can do is find increased ways to stay connected with him. During the younger years, this may seem obvious and easy. But as tweens and teens get more sophisticated and aloof from their parents, she says that perseverance and creativity are required to maintain this connection. She states that in her experiences she has found that”
- Parents need to keep talking, even if your child seems s not to be listening. Outcomes and evidence may prove otherwise.
- Connect through movies (and I will add food). While shoot them up, bang them up, faster and more furious, extraterrestrials may not be your cup of tea, chances are romantic comedies are not his. A movie date or dinner date, may connect with his interests or at least his unquenchable appetite and thereby himself.
- Move and talk. Whether walking the dog, riding in the car, or jogging together, parallel interactions can open communication channels more easily than face to face for many tweens and teens.
- Hear him and just listen. Listen to his chatter about his friends or the latest on Facebook. Ask clarifying questions. Don’t give opinions unless he asks, or lest he stop talking!
- Get off the bleachers: While cheerleading your boy on is great, be an example of activity and exercise to your son. The example is great and he might just join you.
- Share his music: Have him guide you through the music he likes. Ask questions about what you are listening to together. I might add, there might be teachable moment s in the lyrics.
- Refrain from harsh criticism: When it comes to delicate matters, start the conversation with why you are concerned and not with harsh criticism.
- Open your home. Let boys be boys, sometimes loud, often hungry, and many the times in need of horsing around with their buddies.
- Share his interests. By respecting what is important to him, you are offering him respect and not dismissal for being foolish, impractical, and unimportant.
- Counter negative media images about tweens and teens. Remind your boy of all he is doing well. Support him as he grows up, by accentuating the positive; directly confronting what needs to be addressed- just the facts mam; and finding any way to connect and maintain what can be a precarious link. While your tween or teen might not thank you, your successful grown son just might…