Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Navigating the awkward years with your tween and teen children

SINGAPORE – Being a tween (children in pre-teen years) and teen is often an awkward phase for children and it is common for parents to have a difficult time both communicating with them and getting to know what is going on in their lives. And in recent years, this has become more difficult, as the digital age comes with its own set of challenges.

Navigating the awkward years with your tween and teen children

Communicating with tweens and teens may require a change in parenting style. Photo: Unsplash

SINGAPORE – Being a tween (children in pre-teen years) and teen is often an awkward phase for children and it is common for parents to have a difficult time both communicating with them and getting to know what is going on in their lives. And in recent years, this has become more difficult, as the digital age comes with its own set of challenges.

However, parents do not need to be discouraged from being involved in their children’s lives.

The first step is to acknowledge the challenges of connecting with tweens and teens, then adapt their parenting style to meet their children’s changing developmental needs.

“Parents have to change their style from being directive to a more relational approach as tweens and teens need to develop their ability to reason and be responsible for themselves,” said Lew Mi Yih, executive director, Cornerstone Community Services. “Being born in a digital age, they also have increased access to knowledge and their attention spans have reduced.”

She proposed ways parents can help with communication – don’t be quick to judge, ask questions to understand more instead of finding fault, then ask them how you can help. For example, while many parents think that gaming is bad, when played in moderation, players can actually learn to solve problems and also to interact in the virtual community. So instead of immediately admonishing them for their gaming habit, take the time to find out why they are doing it.

“If they’re spending too much time on gaming or social media, find out what is attracting them to it,” Ms Lew explained. “Could it be a sense of escape from stress, or a sense of achievement that they’re looking for? Seek to understand the world they’re in. Listen and empathise with the pressures they face and help them experience the bigger world outside their gadgets.”

With tweens and teens having so much access to the internet, trust is ultimately an important factor for parents to establish.

“We may find that, sometimes, we cannot fully understand what our tweens/teens are going through or why they’re keeping their distance from us,” said Mrs Sarojini Padmanathan, Families for Life council member. “Instead of pushing them or trying too hard to be on the same page, consider taking a step back and giving your child his personal space. Just like any other relationship, a give-and-take approach works best!”

Setting Boundaries

Spying on them is never a good option as it will erode your child’s trust. They need to know that the family is a safe zone where they are respected as a person, but also a place to face the consequences of their mistakes. When tweens/teens feel safe, they will be more willing to share their inner thoughts with you, said Ms Lew.

“Have regular chats with your child when they’re relaxed and let them know you’re concerned for their well-being,” Ms Lew suggested. “If you notice changes in their behaviour, reflect on your observations and gently express your feelings of concern to them. Let them know you’re available and will not scold them. Give them time to think and check back if they’re ready to share.”

Mrs Padmanathan also mentioned the importance of setting boundaries for children, to ensure that they don’t spend too much time disengaged from the real world, as well as knowing who and what they’re engaged with online. Parents will certainly find it easier to enforce these ‘rules’ when a strong parent-child relationship is in place.

“Though a difficult period, the teenage years are the golden years key to character building,” she revealed. “If parents can keep their cool and consciously set aside quality face-to-face time to engage their children in the real world, they can guide our tweens/teens through these challenging times and contribute to their emotional and moral development too.”

Use Social Media

Parents should also leverage digital ‘addictions’ such as social media. It is a very powerful avenue as it tells you what your kids like and reveals their values. But do tread carefully if you are connected with them online, and be sensitive of what you post or comment, while understanding that peer acceptance is very important to them.

“Be supportive of what they post and don’t embarrass them,” said Ms Lew. “You can have conversations of what they or their friends post and get them to share what they think about it. Ask them if they would like to hear what you think. Be an example to them. Post responsibly and help them understand the impact it has on them in a caring and loving way.”

Mrs Padmanathan gave examples of how to use social media to your advantage – brush up on the lingo your children use online to help you engage more effectively with them, and think before you speak. Social media allows us to think about what we want to say before typing a message so take the time to craft them instead of giving knee-jerk responses.

And, as you participate in your child’s social networks, it is also essential to give and respect their personal space online.

“Many parents don’t realise that shadowing, advising or reprimanding their child online is often obvious not only to the child, but also to his social network,” Mrs Padmanathan explained. “This is especially painful if your child is a teenager and likely to feel sensitive about parental involvement.”

Mrs Padmanathan concluded by urging parents to embrace technology with open arms: “There are still a lot of parents who aren’t tech-savvy or have a phobia of technology. We live in a fast-moving world where technology has taken centrestage and parents cannot afford to be left behind.

“The generational gap will only widen with greater opportunities for miscommunication. Growing with the times is necessary in order to better communicate and build trust – and this trust works both ways,” she added.

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa