I once said of my then seven year old “She’s little with flashes of bigness” and my boss laughed. He said “I have an 18 year old, and he’s big with flashes of littleness!”.
Our “little ones” are leaving us, or have left, and we are living with children who are about to commence, or are in the middle of, the most amazing phase of development, one which will last from 12 right through to the mid 20’s.
The pre-teen years are a great age, and marks the beginning of the transition from childhood to adolescence. There’s a lot going on – for us and for them. And the teen years see a huge re-organisation of the brain which Dr Daniel Siegel likens to a construction site. They need support, but it can be challenging to know how to offer it, and it can be hard to us to keep our patience and stay loving.
Want to talk to someone about the challenges in your family?
Contact me for a Free 20 Minute Consultation.
Join a Support Call for parents of pre-teens and teens
Get the support you need by joining a small group of parents of pre-teen and teen children meeting over a few weeks by phone. In these groups, we will share our experiences as we learn about and use the Hand in Hand Parenting Listening Tools in our families as our children grow older. There is time to answer your questions, and give each of you valuable listening time to “download”, explore the challenges, and work out solutions. Being in an ongoing group will help you build support around the work you do as a parent, reduce your stress level, and build connection in your family life. Find out more here.
Resources for you
Using the Hand in Hand Tools with your pre-teen/teen child
Understanding the changes your pre-teen/teen is going through
Parenting through the pre-teen and teen years
Other resources for your parenting
Raising Happier Tweens – short online course: This course from Hand in Hand Parenting gives you the roadmap and the tools to navigating the “tween” years – the ‘attitude’, the sense that your child is withdrawing, the sudden blowups, and how to set limits so that everyone is kept safe. At $55, it is really excellent value.
Navigating the Pre-Teen Years: A teleseminar that my colleague Julie Johnson and I recorded about what is going on for our Pre-Teen children, the challenges of this stage of parenting, and how to use the Hand in Hand Listening Tools to stay connected as your child moves toward adolescence.
“Supporting Adolescents” Booklet (free): Patty Wipfler outlines what is going on for us, for our teens, and how to stay connected through adolescence.
Staying Close to Older Kids – How Special Time Works With Pre-Teens and Teens: Special Time is a powerful tool for building closeness and emotional safety with your child. Listen as we explore how you can keep your connection strong using Special Time, and how it might need to change as your child gets older.
Staying Sane While Parenting Older Kids: How to use Listening Partnerships to get support and be the parent you want to be. Parenting reminds us constantly of what things were like for us when we were young – but this can cloud our judgement and make us reactive.
Helping your angry pre-teen: A great article from Patty Wipfler about using Special Time to stay close, and how to listen to the upsets as your children grow older. Special Time can be a powerful tool for parents and children to stay connected through times of change, including times when we don’t feel we really understand each other. And Staylistening is a tool you’ll need in your tool-box as you stay close and listen to the upsets – no longer the open-hearted cries of younger years, but keeping your foot in the door – before it slams, literally and metaphorically!
Supporting our Teenage Children: An article by Patty Wipfler, outlining the situation for adolescents, how this affects them, and how we can help: through listening, making time, showing respect, supporting your teens sense of fun and play (and even joining in), showing affection, and staying hopeful for them. To do this, we will need to build support around ourselves.
How Special Time Works with Teens: An article explaining what Special Time is, and how it may change as our children get older.
Other Articles about pre-teen/teen issues for parents:
And here are a couple of my favourite articles from Hand in Hand about using these Listening Tools with pre-teen and adolescent children:
Stopping Sibling Rivalry – Sometimes it is hard to remember that one of the best ways to defuse tension between our children is to look for ways to build connection and laughter. Parenting by Connection instructor Kristen Volk interrupts a persistent difficulty between her six and nine year olds by getting laughter going with a playful response.
Special Time Teaches Me About My Son – A mother takes a deep breath, and does Special Time with her teenage son, and is challenged by him to do something she has no idea how to do. Fun ensues – and she learns things about him she did not know. Difficulties in their relationship ease afterwards.
Dr. Dan Siegel Interview about his book, Brainstorm – The Power and Purpose of the Adolescent Brain, Neuroscientist and child psychiatrist Dr Dan Siegel talks to Lynne Malcolm of “All in the Mind” on Australia’s Radio National. Siegel outlines the brain changes that are happening in adolescence, and provides a hopeful picture of how we can understand and support our adolescent children, and the challenge they offer us.
Adrenarche – The changes that happen before puberty: An article describing the changes that happen in the period before puberty: “scientists are now focussing on an earlier hormonal surge that happens at about eight years of age, which they believe has significant implications for children’s social and emotional well-being and also sets the stage for the main event of physical puberty a few years later.”
Dr. Dan Siegel – Brainstorm: Video of Dr Dan Siegel explaining his book Brainstorm – The Power and Purpose of the Adolescent Brain. The book is a good read, although a bit wordy and complex at times, and you can get most of what you need to know from this video.
What is happening in a teen’s brain? A useful description of teen brain development and great little video that explains what is happening in teenagers brains and why it explains their behaviours – strengths and vulnerabilities. (The focus of this site is preventing drug abuse, but the description is useful in any case).
These are a couple of teleseminars from Hand in Hand Parenting about why parenting is so challenging, and what we can do about it. One of the things about parenting pre-teens and teens is that we care constantly reminded of our own experiences when we were their age. This was a time that often wasn’t all that easy for us. These teleseminars will give you a picture of how this process of being reminded of past experiences works.
How your childhood affects your parenting: It’s one of the unexpected things about parenting that we are constantly reminded, as we are faced with our children, of what it was like when we were their age. This is not necessarily a process we are aware of, but it is happening none-the-less. Perhaps more than any other stage, our children’s teen years will be shooting us back to our own experiences of those years – ones which many of us could not leave fast enough, and would not choose to return to. In this teleseminar from Hand in Hand Parenting, Patty Wipfler and others explain how this works, why it happens, and what you can do about it.
Loving the parent you are today: By the time our children are pre-teen, let alone teenagers, we have been parenting a while. We may be tired, and there will be an accumulation of regret about mistakes we have made and opportunities missed, and disappointments. We need to develop our own support networK to work on these for ourselves, in order to be able to stay flexible and available to our growing children. Patty Wipfler explains why things are hard, and how we can build the support around ourselves that we need.
And some articles from researchers about this stage of parenting, and what our children really want from us:
Middle School – The New High School for Moms – there are doubtless different challenges for your average mum vs dad at this stage but the things in this article ring true for all parents of pre-teen and older children. Researchers found that this period is the most stressful time for parents, as their children change almost overnight, and they struggle to respond to the mixed messages of “I want you/Go away” from their children. The researchers recommend not giving up, and developing a “Botox Brow”. Worth a read.
Ellen Galinsky on what children really want: “If they (teenagers) pushed their parents away and their parents hung in there, they really appreciated it, because they knew that they were being difficult. …all through development, there’s separation and connection, and they go hand in hand.” Researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed thousands of children, for the Ask the Children study, and found a sometimes surprising story. A great article full of insights about what kids and parents really want from one another.
What Teens Most Need From Their Parents: This article provides a succinct summary of what to expect of your child at various stays from tween through to 20’s. All the way through, you have a key role to play, and a sense of closeness with you is essential. And the good news: It’s not too late to start building that!
Listen – Five Simple Tools to Solve Everyday Parenting Challenges: I strongly recommend this e-book from Founder of Hand in Hand Parenting (Palo Alto), Patty Wipfler. It outlines the Hand in Hand Parenting approach, and the six Listening Tools we teach. It will give you a good understanding of what you need to know.
Want more support?
I can recommend booking a Free 20 Minute Consultation to help! And I’m a great fan of the Hand in Hand Parenting Facebook Group for Parents of Pre-Teens and Older Kids. Follow the link, and click on “Join Group” and the moderators (of which I am one) will respond.
What resources have you found useful as you navigate this phase of parenting?
Free for reuse as long as you credit the author. See our copyright page for details.
© 2021 by Madeleine Winter.