Naturally, since my daughter was a toddler, I have dreaded the idea of her becoming a teenager.
Not for sentimental reasons like missing that new baby smell or seeing her little face light up when mama walks in the room. I was, and most days I still am, afraid of all the hard stuff. My greatest fear is that some trend amongst friends, alongside that overwhelming desire to be a part of the crowd, will trump what my preteen knows in her head and heart is the right thing to do.
It boils down to fashion, social media, and safety. Here are my concerns and what I have learned the hard way so that you don’t have to.
I used to think that the biggest struggle I would have to face was arguing with my daughter that pajamas were not to be worn to school unless it was spirit week or pajama day! That was until I encountered the short-shorts struggle. I thought we had an understanding on the appropriate length. So you could imagine my dismay when I caught her roll her shorts back down one afternoon as she hopped off the school bus. I realized that I couldn’t dictate what she does when she is out of my sight. I had to make a choice.
I could reprimand her for doing something that she knew was against my wishes, or I could empower her to make choices that would make her feel good and in control.
I wanted her to know that I have expectations for her behavior and that, ultimately, she is the one making the decisions for herself. I explained my issue with her shorts being too short and the type of unwanted attention that it could attract. My daughter heard me out, and now I make sure that she is with me to try on her clothes. Not so that I can make sure they aren’t inappropriate, but we can meet in the middle. This allows her to choose clothing that is in fashion at the moment and will enable me to remind her that a tank top under a crop top is still in style and age-appropriate.
Oh my, where do I begin! Things have gotten so much more complicated since the days of AOL instant messenger. In a day and age where anything gets recorded and uploaded to multiple social media outlets, there is so much to be fearful of as a parent.
Not only do we have to worry about our children making poor decisions, but we have to hope that they are smart enough not to broadcast them as well!
This is my biggest struggle in parenting a preteen. I didn’t want to be too restrictive and not allow her to have popular apps that her friends had. So again, I let her know that I trusted her to use the app appropriately and be mindful of the content she shares. Once it hits the internet, you cant simply delete what people have already seen or heard.
I learned and want to share that it is most important to look at the apps that your preteen is using. Again, communicate expectations and boundaries. Before saying yes, make sure that you know what your child will have access to. Sometimes the concern isn’t what they will be sending out but what they will see. Make it clear that your child has the power to realize when something is not right and decide not to follow the crowd.
I started walking to school on my own while I was still in elementary school. Yet somehow, the thought of my daughter standing and waiting for a school bus produces the strangest sense of anxiety. I know that it is based on the knowledge of all of the worst-case scenarios.
With the Amber Alerts and all of the horrible things that we see on the news, how could we not have some concern for our children’s safety when they are not in our sight?
I have learned that the best way to make sure that my children take their safety seriously is to make sure that they remain informed. Sometimes we don’t want to scare our preteen or burden them with things we feel they don’t need to know. However, there is a way to clarify the dangers that exist without giving all of the details. I think that it is important for children, especially in this age group, to be aware so that they can be alert. With her growing maturity and independence, she began waking herself up for school, making herself breakfast, and heading out for school alone. I didn’t feel comfortable not laying eyes on her, so I asked that she come up and say good morning before heading out. I ask that my daughter let me know when she is on the bus and headed home.
Preteens may be at the most awkward stage. Old enough to have independence but not quite mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes with it!
What I have learned is that the best defense is a strong offense. Make sure that you keep your preteen well informed of expectations, possibilities, and consequences. They need to know what they are up against, and who better to guide them than you? Knowledge is half of the battle. The other half is fostering healthy communication. It can be difficult at times, but it is so valuable to demonstrate that you can hear them out without making them afraid of judgment or disappointment. Keep yourself up to speed with what is trendy, not to be cool, but to remain aware, and always let them know that your door is open, no matter what.