When they were younger, my husband and I quickly realized that our boys were growing up in a world we were unfamiliar with. Their language revolved around Pokemon and powerful, battling adventures that we could not wrap our brains around. My husband played along better than I, creating legendary Pokemon characters using the names of our favorite sushi. The boys would, occasionally, fall for it.
Now, as my boys are entering the pre-teen era of life, I find the conversations are centered on a new game called Minecraft. Building, fighting, battling, and strategizing with friends are all part of this creative online game.
Regardless of how brilliant the game is, it still causes a language barrier between my sons and I. They always want to recount their online adventures to me. I am reluctant to admit that I understand very little of what they are telling me except that they are excited and animated about it, and so I listen.
The lesson here? There are two choices. The first is to do as I do and make sure to stop and listen to your children even when you cannot completely relate to what they are saying. The second option is to spend time learning about your child’s passions so you can engage in a more meaningful conversation with them. Learning Minecraft – like trying to learn chess at 45 – is too much for my brain.
The pre-teen years can be rocky and bumpy. Our children are venturing into a new era of independence, but they still rely on us more than they would like to. It’s time to back away and allow them to discover who they are.
This is not a good time to begin building family communication skills. Start working on building communication skills early so you are well prepared for the teen years and have already established a solid foundation of communication.
It’s important to learn how your child best communicates. He may need a few days to process his feelings before he is able to talk about them. Going outside to shoot hoops with him may be a greater source of comfort and may help him open up more easily.
Though we are beyond them, we can all remember what the pre-teen and adolescent years were like. For many of us, it was a difficult time of trying to figure out who we were and where we fit in. The problems we faced then may seem silly, but they were real and stressful when we were in the midst of them. The greatest courtesy we can offer our children is empathy for whatever they may be going through.
Continue to make time for your pre-teen even if they seem to busy for you. Life has a way of getting away from us. We get caught up in work, home responsibilities, and younger children. It’s easy to let our self-sufficient and independent middle school students fall through the cracks. They still need us even though they frequently shove us away.
Erik Erikson, one of the most prominent developmental psychologists, is well known for identifying stages of psychosocial development. The pre-adolescent years are a time of “crisis”. Our children struggle to fit in with their peers while simultaneously trying to establish themselves as individuals.
The foundation we lay – especially when it comes to communication – will help our soon to be teenagers maneuver through these well-known tumultuous years with success and, hopefully, ease.