Having conversations with your Preteen

I spend I good amount of time with my oldest son who is 12 almost every afternoon.  My younger son plays soccer so he is usually gone with my husband to the soccer field and comes home after 7:30 almost every night of the week. That leaves me and my oldest one home alone.  Although we spent all those hours in the same place I find myself sometimes not interacting much with him. I am busy cooking, catching up with laundry, cleaning, and working. My son would usually do his homework in the kitchen so at least we are in the same “space”, but sometimes he goes to his room and I do give him his time and privacy.

However, as a rule, I try to sit with him at least twice a week and talk. I do put myself in his shoes as a 12-year-old. I was a very alert kid, I was never shielded from popular culture and reality, I was always behaving ahead of my age and I am not expecting him to be the opposite of me.

So what do we talk about? Well, he would usually do the talk, I would listen and ask questions when I am not following the story or I am asked for my opinion.  We make ourselves two cups of tea and we sit down and talk it out.

I ask him questions like:

  • What called your attention at school today?
  • With whom you sit down at school during lunch?
  • What is your biggest challenge at school right now?
  • Do you need anything from me or your dad, for school or for yourself?
  • Do you need anything from me or your dad, for school or for yourself?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • Are you having any problems with a teacher or a classmate?
  • What has been bothering you lately?
  • What lesson are you learning that has really caught your attention?
  • What has been inspiring you lately?
  • What lesson are you learning that has really caught your attention?
  • What has been inspiring you lately?
  • How can I make your life easier?
  • What is your goal as the school years is ending?
  • What have you been curious about?

The intention of these questions is for him to talk. To open up. I don’t judge, and I don’t get upset even when the answer is not what I am expecting.  The intention of the conversation is to see WHAT is his mind and WHAT are his thoughts so that I can better APPROACH and UNDERSTAND him.

There are times in which we would go for a run and 45 minutes later I realized he has not stopped talking, that every question I have asked he has answered honestly and a long story along with the answer.  And there are times in which I feel that no matter how open I present myself, his brain and mood are not there, then I give him time and check with him the next day.

The important aspect is to keep the lines of communication open. Understand that no matter how hectic, tedious, tiring, and frustrating our day has been, it has NO relation with our younger kiddos.  They pick up the clues and keys of our behavior and react to what they feel (or assume) is going on. The initiative of communication should come from us the parents so that they understand how important their growth and development is.

As the conversation with my son goes, we can debate (very common), and we can also joke and laugh. I will listen to his long explanation of why this and why that (usually very wrong explanation) which I will follow with… Ok, I understand where you are coming from, do you think you can hear me out to see my point?  Again it is a two-way conversation, no need to be judgmental or shut down the flow of the conversation. The beauty of the moment is what you will learn from your kids and hopefully, the little bit of wisdom that they will learn from you.

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