(photo: Alena Ozerova)
You read about the "Prickly Pre-teens" and of course the Tumultuous Teen Years. You know there are drugs, cigarettes, candy-flavored vapors, suicide, depression, alienation, and bullying. So being a conscious parent, you start the conversation... And it goes something like this,
Mom: How was school today?
Child: Good (Also but not limited to: "Fine, Okay, Alright, Uhuh.")
Mom: What did you do today?
Child: Stuff (Also but not limited to: "I don't remember, I have a lot of homework, I'm hungry.")
Full on confrontation even when completely friendly is often not the best way to interact with these morphing young people. It makes them feel tested, and mostly just uncommunicative. I realized this a number of years ago. I would have a pre-picked time and place to catch up with them, but it quickly turned into an inquisition.
Well, what's a well-meaning Mom to do? Because it doesn't work if you just wait for them to come to you. How many times in your house have you said, "Why didn't you tell me about so and so?" So I realized that the best time might actually be exactly the wrong time for a big discussion. Maybe they do this partly on purpose, or maybe I have just figured out the way to crack their code.
(Sai De Silva/Unsplash)
I always sit on their bed at night and see what happens. Sometimes a little story about school rolls off their tongue. Other times an idea or adventure they would like to try comes out. Sure, time is ticking and bedtime is getting late, but what amazing discoveries are presented! It was at this time one of my children described in perfect detail a new ride they were designing. Another time, one of my children told me about an unpleasant experience at school. And even though I know I had asked at least twice how their day was, it didn't come out until they were tucked under their safe blankets.
My daughter's "Mom come help me with my hair," at night has taken on a whole new meaning. This is our time for true Girl Talk, when I'm allowed entry into the glorious and often clumsy well-meaning world of female Tween Land. Nothing is off limits. I feel honored and make sure she gets my full attention.
For my fourteen-year-old Son, this time usually begins with him sharing music or some fact he found on Disney Reddit. Then anything from college, to political, to hilarious commentary arises. This also occurs when we have dinner one on one. Then we break apart for homework with one of us saying to the other, "You are just too interesting to talk to..."
Surprisingly, I now take the exact same walk home from school with my daughter that I did when she went to Nursery School. Rain, sleet, and shine, we stroll among the tree-lined streets. Sometimes we play silly games and other times I stay very attentive and quiet as my eleven year old's day rolls out in front of me. I am always so thankful for the plethora of gifts this bestows. I learn who her school best friends are, who thinks she's cute, who got the highest grade, what teacher made her laugh, who surprised her, and if I listen carefully...how she feels she fits in this world.
Sometimes during a busy week, I realize there is a little disconnect. So I allow Alexa to break up our formal dining room and turn it into a Rock Club. There we are, up from the table and showing off our favorite dance moves of the moment. Which usually concludes with, "Go Mommy, Go Mommy!"
I guess in conclusion, the best time to talk to your children is any time. But for true insight into their lives, it's got to be on their terms. So have that cup of tea later, jump on their bed with them and just listen.
Please share when is the best time in your house to share in your children's lives. We would all love to hear it.