5 ways to help tweens build positive relationships
Making friends can be a minefield in the tween to teen years. How can parents help?
Guiding tweens in building strong healthy friendships and relationships is one of the most crucial parenting challenges. The choices and experiences in these years can shape your child’s adult years as well, and your gentle loving guidance is vital in helping them make good decisions.
It’s important to recognize that guiding your child in this process begins even before they reach Teenhood. Emotional well-being and resilience is a basic building block on which healthy relationships are built. As parents, you will have to intentionally focus on, and meet, your child’s emotional needs.
Here are some simple yet effective ways that you can achieve this, even in our time-strapped and busy lifestyles.
1. Build a strong bond by spending quality time with your child.
Experts agree that parents who interact regularly with their children — beginning in infancy — develop stronger bonds with them. Schedule regular one-on-one time with your child. You may choose to indulge in a shared favourite past-time, or even pick up a new skill or hobby. Most importantly, this regular time together opens the door for your child to share their hopes, fears and thoughts with you.
2. Stay emotionally in tune. Connect with your child on an emotional level.
Attempt to understand what she is feeling. When she is happy, be happy for her; when she is sad, cry with her. Your child will respond well to your empathy, and reciprocate by sharing their lives more openly with you.
3. Model healthy emotional relating.
Children ‘do as we do’ rather than ‘do as we say’, and your child will mimic the way you handle emotions and the way you relate to others. By managing your own emotions in a positive way, your child will learn to do so as well.
4. Teach your child how to handle negative emotions.
Doing this well does not come naturally. A child needs to be taught how to handle defeat, deal with conflict or be angry in a healthy way. Unsurprisingly, a child who is taught these skills early, will be better able to handle negative feelings as an adult.
Even with this foundation of a strong parent-child bond established, your tween is bound to have questions, doubts and face challenging times when forging friendships. Rather than swinging to either extreme by adopting a heavy-handed approach or choosing to be completely hands-off, parents should offer gentle advice and wisdom to guide a child.
Three more ways to help your tween build positive relationships on the next page...
5. Help your child to recognize and stand up to peer pressure.
Peer pressure is not a new phenomenon, and indeed, it’s not necessarily a bad thing; friends with positive habits can influence your child in a healthy manner. However, if your child feels belittled or threatened, it is important that they have the skills to speak up for themselves firmly. When the opportunity arises, talk through possible scenarios of peer pressure and ask your child what they would do in that situation. Be frank with your child and share some positive examples of how you overcame peer pressure in your tween and teen years.
6. Spend time with your child’s friends.
Invite your tween’s friends to spend time hanging out in your home, or have them over for a family dinner. This is a good way to get to know them even as your child enters a phase where they desire greater privacy from you. As a parent, this places you in a good position to encourage and reinforce positive friendships.
7. Have a dialogue, not monologue.
When parents do all the talking, even with all good intentions, you might start to sound like you are nagging, lecturing or preaching. Instead, engage your tween with open-ended questions and have a two-way conversation so they have the liberty to express their thoughts, clarify uncertainties, and discuss options. Share your convictions but do not impose them. “Because I said so” doesn’t work for tweens. Instead provide logical explanations and compelling reasons. This way, your tween will feel a lot more comfortable and willing to approach you with their concerns and seek your advice.
8. Set ground rules and expectations.
When it comes to dating, rules and boundaries will vary from family to family depending on the maturity and age of your child. Let them know the consequences upfront. Once the boundaries and consequences are clearly spelt out, your child will have clarity on your expectations so there’s no confusion. In addition, it is important to be consistent.
Every parent knows that having the skills to build and maintain healthy relationships will stand their children in good stead as they step into adulthood and independence – ensuring that they have enriching and fulfilling relationships for life. These basic steps will get you started on that road!
Copyright © 2016. Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.
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