By Sarah Vander Schaaff
I am not a trailblazer. That may be my mantra as I head into the process of raising a preteen. Someone has done this before—and I want to learn from them. Times change quickly, to be sure; the social media of last year is now passé, and young people seem to absorb cultural shifts light-years ahead of we parents. But there is wisdom in those parents who have crossed these parts, and our next series this summer is going to share it.
I’ve asked mothers who have strong relationships with their teenagers how they have maintained such ties and what advice they’d give. Today we hear from a mother of a fifteen-year-old daughter and sixteen-year-old son. Her chosen screen name for today is: IceCreamLady
Questions for IceCreamLady:
1. How would you describe the process of raising a child from early tween to teen years?
It is a most stressful experience. I raised two tweens at the same time and there was not a day without a challenge for me.
2. What advice would you give another mother if she asked, especially in terms of raising girls, as they move through shifting friendships? What advice have you given your daughters?
It is important to be a good listener and have patience. Even if you feel judgmental, try to be understanding. Your child hears you even if she/he doesn’t show it immediately. I tried to ignore outbursts and not address disrespectful behavior until my children calmed down. When they are calm, they may tell you what’s going on in their lives.
The best advice I have given my daughter is to be a friend to everyone. Never talk about anyone behind her back even if you are really angry. I told her to only tell me if she’s angry with a friend. She did and she says she is so grateful because she avoided a lot of “drama” by doing this.
3. How have you maintained an open stream of communication with your daughter?
I try to listen without talking which can be extremely difficult. Listen, listen, listen. They really want to talk about what’s going on but they don’t necessarily want to hear what you think. It’s tricky and sometimes you have to say something to protect them. I try to wait until she is done talking/crying and then give my advice. Sometimes she asks for advice.
4. Have you ever had to intervene—with the school or with another child’s parents-to attempt to resolve an emotional conflict?
A girl was bullying my daughter relentlessly and the school was well aware. Her punishment one time was no gym for a week. The school discouraged me from calling the mom but I did. Other moms told me that she would never help me and I was starting a “war” for my child. I decided to call. I told her what was going on and she was angry with the school for not informing her. Her daughter came to school the next day and immediately apologized to my daughter and invited her to a party at her house. That was five years ago and we haven’t had an issue since. I think I was lucky because it doesn’t always work out that way.
5. What do you wish schools or communities would do to make the social issues (and those brought about by social media) more readily addressed?
School should bring in psychologists to talk openly with tweens about social issues. Social media is another issue… Our school brought in someone who showed my teens how Facebook can damage your reputation and what colleges and employers see when they look on your Facebook. They were shocked because they had never considered how an “innocent” post could be interpreted.
Have some advice of your own? We’d love to hear it. Leave a comment below. And check back next week for part II.
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