You’ve sung lullabies, kissed ouchies, taken them to Sunday school, and given in to that one extra bedtime story many times. Now, the teen years are on the horizon and your relationship with your child looks a little more complex. It’s only natural, as middle school represents a time of rapid growth and change. In this season, students experience more brain development than any other school-age child. Coupled with fluctuating hormones, dynamic social lives, and an increasing desire for independence, it’s easy to see why parents often feel disconnected from their pre-teens. Rest assured moms and dads, they need you now more than ever.
The following tips will help you maintain a strong bond with your child through middle school and beyond.
The concept of active listening is beneficial in all relationships, but it is especially important for parents who want to let their pre-teens feel heard. When your child communicates a thought, feeling, or problem, give them your full attention, remain neutral while they are speaking, and resist the urge to offer advice before the time is right. Active listening also involves paraphrasing to ensure you’ve understood and asking questions to learn more. It’s a simple way to show your child that you value what they have to say and are there for them.
Studies have shown that teens who regularly share meals with their family are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. A gourmet dinner is not required; it’s simply about togetherness and positive communication. Quality time is key to mentoring your child, whether it’s around the kitchen table or at the park. Make it a priority to connect in a distraction-free environment multiple times throughout the week. A little intentionally goes a long way.
No one knows your child better than God. Even on days when you feel like you don’t understand what’s going on in your pre-teen’s mind, rest assured — their creator does. Ask God for wisdom in your parenting, protection for your child, and peace in your family. Pray for Christian mentors to partner with you and quality friendships for your son or daughter. Looking for inspiration in your prayer life? Check out the book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens: Discover How to Pray God’s Purpose for Their Lives.
Brain science tells us that pre-teens do not respond well to threats or harsh punishments, but are motivated by positive reinforcement and natural consequences. Help them see how their positive actions bring rewards, and what might happen when they push against the boundaries you have in place. Positive discipline promotes intrinsic motivation and sound-decision making, skills you want your child to have when you’re not around.
Your child’s learning environment has a huge impact on his or her overall development. Many parents discover that they need alignment between home and school more than ever in middle school. Pre-teens quickly move toward independent thinking, ask important questions, and explore their own values. Knowing that their mentors at school are teaching from the same biblical perspective they’ve heard at home provides great peace of mind for parents, and often eliminates a lot of confusion for the child.
If you are looking for a positive school community in the Gastonia, NC area where your child can safely grow more independent while developing his or her identity in Christ, we encourage you to learn more about Gaston Christian School.