By Sarah Vander Schaaff
Continuing our series on What to Expect When You Have No Idea What to Expect (raising tweens to teens), we hear from a mother of two girls and a boy, whose ages range from 15 to 17. If the theme last week was to listen to your growing children, this week’s may be to give credence to what they say. They may not tell you much, but behind those bits of expression, may be deep concerns. Our featured mother’s screen name today is: Cobblestone
1. How would you describe the process of raising a child from early tween to teen years?
Difficult. We, too, experienced a difficult time for our girls (and boy) during these years. We found that parents, in general, let their kids see and do too much at a young age. Therefore, the children have all this “information” and behaviors that they don’t know what to do with, which carries over to their relationship with your kids. We tried and still try not to conform to what everyone else has and is doing (ie.,cell phones, Facebook, etc.) because kids are not ready to have them at such a young age.
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?
Trust your instincts as a child and parent. Be wary of the girls that you don’t have a good feeling about. Talk to your child about what makes a good friend. Make a list and share with each other. Social media is also a killer. Try to stay off it for as long as possible.
3. How have you maintained an open stream of communication with your daughters?
This gets harder as the kids grow up. With social media so prevalent, it’s harder to stay connected to your child’s day-to-day relationship successes and hardships. The one thing I have learned over the years is to not be judgmental of my child’s thoughts and actions. Otherwise, they won’t be as forthcoming with information and problems. Another biggie I have learned is to validate what your kids say. They know better, and a few times I brushed off what they have said only for it to be true.
4. Have you ever had to intervene—with the school or with another child’s parents-to attempt to resolve an emotional conflict? Can you describe what happened?
Yes, a few times. Once when my daughter reported that a teacher (that she should have absolutely no contact with at the time) touched her and it made her feel funny. The principal acted on it immediately and nothing else came about. He retired the next year.
A big one, and a complicated story, was when our daughter was being bullied in 2nd grade by a teacher’s daughter. The parent taught in another school, but our 2nd grade teacher was good friends with the mother of the child in question.
After witnessing numerous bullying acts, many of them physical, the teacher was reluctant to intervene. I am convinced that because of this, my daughter suffered from what I would consider an emotional breakdown from 2nd through 3rd grade and it was absolutely the most awful thing.
I’m happy to report that with good counseling, a supportive family and dedicated teachers, that she has recovered fully–but the anxiety will always be there.
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?
1. Enforce a no tolerance policy. It’s harder to enforce anything in a big public school.
2. Offer lectures to parents and classes to girls about these types of issues that are plaguing our society.
One of the most interesting things about this topic, for me, has been other parents’ responses. So many have stories in which their children have been on the difficult end of a peer relationship. I had to wonder, “If everyone is feeling this, who is a “aggressor”?” Maybe my sample set was far to small, or maybe, as Rosalind Wiseman writes in her book on the subject, even being the Queen Bee comes with grief.
A friend recommended Wiseman’s book, Queen Bees & Wannabes, and if you’re looking for straight-forward 411 on what kids today are facing and how to parent wisely, it’s a sobering read. On page 60 for example, is a list of what not to say when your child tells you someone is being mean to them: “They’re just jealous. They’re just insecure. You’re better off without them. Just show them what a good friend is. Just be nice. Just be strong. Just don’t let it bother you. Just ignore it.” Instead, she writes, say: I’m so sorry. Thank you for telling me. I’m going to help you think this through so you feel better about how it’s being handled.”
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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