Early adolescence is a period of confusion for both preteens and parents. Here’s how you and your preteen can understand each other better.
By Nivedita Mukerjee
As your child gets to her first ‘double digit’ milestone birthday – the big 10 – don’t you find a change in your attitude as a parent? The ‘cute and cuddly’ phase is now replaced by expectations from the child, which are either your own or a reflection of what your parents had expected from you.
As your child grows into a preteen, she also starts showing the ability of taking care of some of her needs on her own. So, it is also the time for you to overhaul your own roles and responsibilities. Your parenting style now needs to be changed from nurturing and stimulating to providing wider exposure, greater challenges and connecting with your child for a more meaningful relationship. The three years from ages 10 to 12 is the best time for you to establish a long-lasting connection with your soon-to-be teenager.
With your child becoming a preteen, there are a few important changes you may notice in his personality. Your preteen may
Let’s now look at the other important changes your child may display once she becomes a preteen.
What are the behaviours that most children exhibit during the wonderful preteen years? Over the years, as an educator, I have spent a considerable amount of time with preteens. I have interacted with them on a variety of topics. I have travelled with them on school trips to study history, geography, sciences – all the while trying to understand them. My long and intense interactions with preteens helped me learn a great deal about their behaviour. Some of the typical characteristics I observed in children aged 10–12 years are:
While these are a few general observations, you must consider the characteristics of your child while dealing with her. This includes her temperament, home and family environment, friends in school and neighbourhood, extra-curricular interests, maturity level, health conditions, etc.
For children aged 10–12, developmental milestones are not clearly defined. However, as a K-12 educator, I have spent a lot of time in discussion with parents to try and understand what preteens go through during this time.
They go through many physical changes, but the time and pace vary. The physical changes are accompanied by cognitive changes as well. During this time, most children start thinking, reasoning and learning from experiences. They develop the ability to understand the consequences of actions. They can conceive ideas of projects in an abstract way. They do not need to see or touch material to plan how to use them. They can understand complex emotions and anticipate how you will react to what they may say or do. They can also explain or provide an excuse for their acts, or even fabricate a cover-up story. To deal with such a scenario, you should have open interactions with your child, establish mutual trust, and be less judgmental with your words and actions. This will help your child develop the courage to be honest with you.
You need come to terms with the fact that your child is now starting to think with more cognitive maturity, which is almost adult-like. The mental changes happening in your child are a part of the process of ‘identity formation’. At this time, your child goes through different phases of struggles, an analysis of which helps him understand himself and his roles. This self-analysis helps him learn to deal with negative emotions like fear, sadness and anxiety, and prepares him to handle different situations in life. But you might also observe some contradictory behaviours like taking a long shower before participating in a save water campaign. Or spending hours texting his friends only to criticize a peer for indulging in gossip.
While you always make the effort to understand your child, it is also important that your child understands you. Here’s a questionnaire to help you find out how well your child knows you (you can add more questions to this list as you think fit).
Be prepared for the most unexpected honest answers from your child, but it would give you an idea about how much your child knows and understands you. This exercise might also encourage your child to create a similar questionnaire about himself and ask you to answer the questions. This, in turn, will help you know more about him than you already do.
‘Your Ten-to Fourteen-Year-Old’ by Louise Bates Ames, Frances L. llg and Sidney M Baker is a good one to start with. In this book, the writers have presented their observations, consultations and discussions with parents. You may also read ‘Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child’ by John Gottman. Reading these books, and more, will help you learn the behaviour pattern of preteens. And being informed will help you take appropriate steps towards building a great relationship with your child.
Nivedita Mukerjee is a journalist, educator and parent. She writes about matters that concern a child’s success and well-being. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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