Becoming a preteen can be an exciting yet complicated time in your child’s life. They have likely begun to assert their own independence, yet still very much need guidance and attention from their parents. When my daughter turned 11, I witnessed the gradual change that many parents warned me about. She started to spend more time in her room or with friends, and my very presence irritated her little hormonal soul. If you can relate, fear not. She is 13 now, and I can assure you that it gets better … kind of. Here are some practical steps I took (and still follow) to keep our mother/daughter relationship strong and the lines of communication open:
Listen more than you speak
As your child slowly relies more and more on the approval of their peers, they will be less interested in what you have to say. Instead of allowing this to become a point of contention, try taking this opportunity to listen. Listen to her stories, interests, and fears. No matter how trivial it may seem, you are slowly gaining her trust. She knows she can come to you, without judgment, when she needs to spill the contents of her little fragile heart.
Take interest in her interests
My daughter is OBSESSED with K-POP music. If you don’t know what that is, it stands for Korean pop. She insists that I know each band member’s name, favorite cereal, and shoe size. There is not a day that goes by that she does not in some form or fashion quiz me on my K-POP culture knowledge. And although I don’t get it, I know that this is common ground for us these days. To her, it’s important that I show interest in her world. She needs to know that I approve of who she is as an individual, and that I not only love her but that I like her.
Share your stories
Humiliating moments, your first love, your best achievements, your greatest disappointments … your daughter wants to hear your story. Not in a parent/moral of the story sort of way, just your authentic story. It subtly lets her know that what she’s going through, you’ve been through before. It lets her know that she is normal, and not alone. And most importantly, it lets her know that she will one day be stronger than she could ever imagine.
Give her more responsibility
Now is the perfect time to start giving your daughter more independence and responsibility. What that looks like will depend on your family, and your child (you know her best). If you normally do her laundry, maybe she can begin to learn to do her own. I believe my daughter was 12 when I let her stay home alone for the first time. We were both nervous, but I knew that she needed me to trust her and I needed her to begin to trust herself. Loosen the rope just a little bit, I’m willing to bet that your daughter is more capable than you thought she was.
You will mess up
Not if, but when. You will lose your cool, you will raise your voice, you will forget important things. If I could pick the most important tip of them all, it would be to give yourself and your daughter plenty of grace. Let go of what you thought this relationship should look like, and embrace what it actually is. Ask for forgiveness as often as needed, forgive as often as needed. Understand that this journey of parenthood is full of highs and lows. Enjoy the journey, and do the best you can with what you have. It will be over before you know it.