Staying connected to our kids when they hit the tween and teen years presents new challenges. There are a few things our tweens really do want us to know, though they won't come out and say them (and might even deny them when asked).
They feel like we're on our phones too much
It still counts, even if we're "just looking up the answer to a question" or "making sure no crucial work emails came in" or "watching for a text about the carpool." Our tweens and teens want our undivided attention sometimes. They want to know we're really listening. This post on being a better listener talks more about different listening styles and how to be the kind of listener our kids need.
They want to spend more unstructured time at home
Kristie had a family meeting recently to revisit some family values she and her husband established when their sons were babies. They asked the boys (now tweens) what they wanted to add to the list and couldn't believe it when the boys both said "down time!" Even though the boys like to be active and involved, they also want home time to be a priority.
They wish we could spend more family time just laughing together...at funny YouTube videos, fart jokes or ridiculous stories from school
If we’re too busy, worried or distracted, that won’t happen.
They need limits on screens, but also an appreciation that they're growing up in a digital world where talking to friends on a gaming headset and texting are part of their social life and real-life friendships
Cool Mom Tech (brought to you by the moms behind Cool Mom Picks) has great resources on parenting this digital generation. Their info strikes a good balance between embracing digital and protecting kids from the online Wild Wild West.
They want us to interrupt less and know that they're not always looking for help or a solution
See #1 about the importance of just listening. When her kids launch into a story about a problem or frustration, Kristie asks her boys: "Do you need me to just listen, or do you want me to help solve the problem or give you advice?"
Even though we nag and yell, they'll remember the good stuff about us more than anything else
Kristie and I teach college students, so we hear proof daily that our kids will appreciate us...eventually. There's a good chance we're not messing up this mom gig. Despite their eyerolls and whining, our kids actually know how much we love them. Truth.
They need us to follow through on what we say we'll do
If we say we're coming to their game, we're there. If we say they've lost phone privileges for the week, that phone is GONE. See ya later empty promises and hollow threats.
They're paying attention: to how we spend our time, how we treat others, who we spend our time with, how hard we work
Gulp. They're more likely to do as we do than do as we say. As a working mom, I do miss some things at home. But I wrote a post about Reasons I Want and Need to be a Working Mom because I think my career lets my kids see some important things about me.
They notice how we respond to stress, the world and life’s challenges
They're learning how to respond from us, and they want us to help them understand how to navigate these things. Kristie wrote a post on How to Talk to Your Kids about Mass Shootings. While it breaks our hearts that we need posts like these, we want to help our kids learn how to avoid false information and how to process difficult information they see in today's world.
They want us to know their friends and be involved in their lives
Our kids might act (or even be) embarrassed, but when we stay connected to their friends, teachers and coaches, we keep them honest and show them how much we care. My internet repairman told me he used to sporadically volunteer at his kids' school as his schedule allowed, and then drop by their college dorm rooms and apartments unannounced because he "wanted them to remember they just never know when dad might randomly show up." Love it.