Having just turned ten, my daughter is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged tween. We are having more “talks” as her friends and classmates bring more and more interesting tidbits to her attention such as which feminine products are better, who “likes” whom, oh-the-girl-drama and more.
The hormones are also beginning to take over my sweet child, and she regularly shares with me, “I don’t know why I am sad, I’m just sad.” Boy, I totally get it. It is an interesting time and I am excited for her embarkation into this world of womanliness! We have a lot to talk about and lots of bonding to do! Yay!
My husband, on the other hand is doing his best trying to chart this new territory with his oldest daughter.
He comes from a family of 3 boys, so other than me and his mom, all of this is NEW. I hear him carefully asking about her new bras or how she is feeling, or looking at her strangely when she is crying for “no reason.” He really is trying his best but is often met with really short answers or pure embarrassment. I know he wants to remain close to her, so I am going to share with him (and you) my best motherly advice for remaining connected to his tween.
Listen to her. Really listen. Remove all things distracting and clear your mind so you can be fully present with her. I know that as a dad your nature is to want to fix everything or to give opinions, but during this time when your daughter is trying out new identities, navigating friendships and discovering more about who she really is, she really needs you to just listen. Oftentimes fixing, advice or judging shuts down communication, so a more workable strategy for showing that you are listening would be to ask Curiosity Questions.
Oftentimes fixing, advice or judging shuts down communication…
Curiosity questions are just what the name implies- questions, based on, well, curiosity. Curiosity questions are an amazing way to help your daughter feel more capable and respected. They also guide her towards figuring out things for herself and developing confidence in those decisions. The goal is here is to draw forth information vs. stuffing it in (fixing, advice or judging).
Examples of curiosity questions could be:
- What happened?
- How do you feel about what happened?
- How do you think your friends felt?
- What else could you do?
- How can you take this information and experience something different the next time?
You get the idea.
I know you may be thinking, but what happens if I REALLY want to give advice or share information? Again, ask a question: “Would you like some advice?” And see what she says…
Spend one on one time with her. Again, without any distractions (including other siblings.) An easy approach is “Hey, I’d love to spend some time with you, when can we do that and what would you like to do?” As much as possible, let her choose the time/day/activity (within reason and budget of course) and try to make it happen on a regular basis. Once you have your date scheduled use this as a time to really connect. Even if she wants to go to a movie, find a way to get ice cream afterwards or lunch before so you can have one on one, eye to eye, connected time. Refer back to point #1 and ask questions and listen.
Communicate with her as you would like to be communicated. The teasing that you may love and used to do regularly may not garner the same response as it used to, in fact, it may garner the opposite response and you may end up with her crying or being angry. Try and be more sensitive to her hormones and feelings. Instead, share personal stories about yourself at this same age. Was it weird, confusing, scary? Share that with her, it will help with some of the fears and anxieties that she may be feeling to know you went through something similar.
And above all love her unconditionally. She may be “all over the place”, but try not to take her moods or behavior personally. Most likely it isn’t about you at all, it is about her moving from one phase of her life to another while managing her thoughts, changes, feelings, choices, relationships and decisions. Whew, a lot to take on. And she still needs you!
I hope it helps!