16 February 2023
Connecting with my Tween - Five things I have learned.
— My Story
It is no secret that my parenting journey thus far has been more of a cobblestone pathway than a smoothly paved highway.
Navigating through the challenges of dyslexic thinking and accommodating ADD is a vague summary of our journey, but it is the careful support of my child’s emotional nuances and setbacks in self confidence that made motherhood especially challenging for me, specifically in the Primary School years when diagnoses are made and reality sets in.
I made a choice to be a conscious parent. I listen. I notice. I offer a safe space. And yet, so often, there was not much I could do. I felt like an observer and I desperately wanted to take up her burden. I wanted to clear her path. I often wondered if there was a strong enough connection between us. Does she know I have her back? Can she see my warrior spirit holding space?
Chantel Griesel, Occupational Therapist at The My Story Tribe describes it so beautifully in a newsletter this week:
“Parenting is not a role. It’s not a responsibility. It’s primarily a relationship. Our children don’t need us to be the best organizers, the best cheerleaders who are everywhere, know everything and push them to be their best. They don’t need the best lunchbox. They just need us.
Not what we DO for them, just that we ARE for them.
They don’t need an action; they need a person. They don’t need us to walk in front of them clearing the way. They don’t need us to walk behind them, pushing. Our children need us to walk next to them, exploring the possibilities of life, no matter how different it might be from what we initially dreamed for them. “
I am still learning daily. But through trial and error, this is what I have come to know about connecting with my Tween:
- The question: “What’s wrong?” hardly ever leads to an answer. It's like shutting a door. I always get more information out of her when I suggest doing something together. Even if it is just a short car ride to the filling station cafe to get some ice cream. Relaxed time spent together beats verbal probing any day.
- I bite my tongue. Let’s face it, we do sometimes have phenomenal answers to their tricky life questions, but no Tween likes a know-it-all, preachy parent. So before I give advice, I listen a little bit more. And before sharing my nuggets of wisdom I ask: “What do you think?” That usually gives more insight into her state of mind and train of thought than any interrogation.
- F - U - N is how connection is spelt. I’m not an extremely fun person. I’ll choose to read a book ten times before I go bodyboarding. But years from now, my child will remember the bodyboarding, not the boring afternoon on the couch.
- Rituals and habits create automatic opportunities for connection. Sometimes suggesting an activity is met with eyerolls and protest. But if we have a standing date or ritual, children go along with it easier, and beautiful memories are made. In a particularly difficult time, my daughter and I watched a certain TV show every evening at the same time indulging in the same comfort food. It became our ‘thing’. Now she refers to that show as ‘our show’ and that snack as ‘our snack’. No big problems were solved that week. But we had each other.
- Showing vulnerability opens up a huge space for connection. I remember the first time I admitted to her : ”I’m not having a great day.” It was as if I gave her a gift. What I thought would cause her to feel less safe and grounded, instead gave her an opportunity to show kindness to me.
I still learn every day. More so now that she is moving into her Teens. Send some grace and patience this way please!
To my fellow parents who are advocating, longing and fighting for connection, I see you. Every day is a new day to connect. Let's be the guardians of that connection - Milan Murray: Founder of The My Story Tribe