Thursday, April 29, 2010

keeping the peace


Disclaimer: I am not the most experienced, all-knowing parent in the world. I have one child. Some people equate that with having a pet.

A friend called me last week. She’s writing an article for a local parenting magazine about ages and stages. She needed a quote from the parent of an 11-14 year old. The section about this age group discusses preparing ‘tweens to deal with peer pressure.

Our conversation got me thinking...

For the most part, the ‘tween years are all about preparing kids (and their parents) for the peer pressures that lie ahead in the teenage years. Girls begin to take notice of their appearance fairly early. They become extremely self-conscience. My daughter is currently in the “I’m fat.” “I’m ugly.” “I just wish I looked normal” (whatever that is) stage. Her desire to fit in is extremely important. Hair, clothes, height, weight, looks, are all-consuming in the daily life of a ‘tween.

So how can we (parents) play a role in helping our kids through this stage?

The word that kept coming up in the conversation with my writer friend was communication. That word gets used a lot in parenting. It’s really about being accessible to our kids. Making them feel comfortable talking to us about ANYTHING.

Every day when I pick up Iz from school, the first thing I ask is, “How was school today?”

Usually this turns into a monologue about some not-so-pleasant thing that happened, i.e. she may have failed a math test, one of her friends made a comment about her _______ (fill in the blank) shirt, hair, project, shoe laces... Occasionally she says, “Good.”

Yesterday she jumped into the car and before I had a chance to ask my question, she says, “The gym locker room smelled like pot today.”

“And how do you know what pot smells like?” I asked.

Apparently, the gym teacher had made this claim. So this led to our discussion about what she plans to do when someone asks her to smoke pot with them. She said she’s never going to smoke pot. I told her about the damage it can do to a developing brain. I also told her that if she ever wants to try it (sometime around legal drinking age), talk to us about it, and we’ll see what we can do to make that happen. She looked at me with a shocked look. I just don’t want it to be so taboo that she finds herself curious about it and therefore wants to try it. I also think that when kids don’t feel comfortable talking to parents, they’re likely to seek answers elsewhere. I want her to feel like she can talk to me without me freaking out on her.

If I can show I’m willing to listen and discuss things, I’m hoping she’ll feel comfortable talking to me about sensitive subjects in the future.

I’m gonna need to work on my poker face.

I will not freak.

I will not freak.

I will not freak.

Any parenting advice will be appreciated.

Thank you.


Susan said...'re doin' it right!

Cindy, I don't think you have a thing to worry about. That was a stupid thing to say...of course you do, you're a parent, you have a gazillion things to worry about! But YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT THINGS, believe me. Being honest and open, but setting limits and helping her reach her goals and letting her know (in a non-lecturing way) what your expectations are and just being a good role model yourself...those are the keys. And having a great amount of good luck and good genes doesn't hurt either.

Seriously, this is the MOST crucial time in her life. If you can keep her grounded and focused at this point, you have half the battle won. I'm rootin' for you, kid...I think I know a winner when I see one.


Cindy said...

Susan, thank you for validating my parenting skills. I was not always the nicest teenager, especially at around 13 (just ask my mother). She says I was very independent. I'm not sure she means it in a positive way, although I take it as a compliment.

I'll be holding back on sharing my personal teen stories with Isabel until she's around 35.

Thanks for your love and support. I'll keep you posted...

jazgal said...

Hey Cindy,

I am pretty darn sure that you and Michael have very sound parenting skills, and Iz has already developed a very grounded core that will help her cope with many tougher issues in the years to come. The payoff will most likely come when she's in college, when she's had some time to compare notes with friends and reflect on how you raised her, and how you were supportive through her peer crises of this period.

That's not to say that this time is not exceedingly challenging for you all, but that this too shall pass ...without bringing you all to your knees in the process.

Keep on keepin' on!