There are a lot of things your kids may not have mentioned but wish you knew about what’s going on with them. By getting cued into these thoughts, you can build a stronger, happier relationship with your children and avoid a lot of pointless misunderstandings and arguments.
• I say I don’t need you, but I do. Pre-teens and teens are well known for dramatic statements like, “Get out of my life!” But that’s stress and hormones talking. They actually do want to talk to you about things they’re worried or excited about, but they’re concerned you’ll judge them or get upset if they ask about sensitive topics like sex, drugs or drinking. Find a casual way, maybe while you’re driving, to let them know they can talk to you or ask you about anything and you won’t judge or get mad. You’ll probably be surprised by what they share with you.
• It upsets me when you guys fight. At any age, hearing parents arguing or treating each other with disrespect is scary and upsetting to kids. Here’s why. You and your partner are the foundation of their world. If that’s in jeopardy, then they feel like they have no safe haven. Of course you and your partner will get mad at each other sometimes, but have your discussions in private when the kids are not around and remember to fight fair—no yelling, threatening or name-calling.
• My brain can’t switch gears that fast. You might assume because your kids seem to be master multitaskers—texting, watching T.V. and talking you all at the same time—that it’s easy for them to go from one to task to the next. But, just like you, they need a little downtime to switch gears and refocus. When they get home from school, give them some time to relax before insisting that they start on homework or other chores. They’ll focus better and you’ll avoid some of life’s inevitable homework hassles.
• When you label me, I think that’s all I can be. Amy’s the smart one. Trent is the disorganized one. Tim’s the creative one. Labels, positive or negative, can put your child in a box. Everyone has strong points and less strong points, so look at your child as a whole person. Trent might be disorganized, but he’s really empathetic. Amy’s smart, but she also loves hiking. Tim is creative, but he can also fix any machine that’s broken.
• I’m going to make mistakes. Every child makes missteps, so don’t expect yours to be perfect. They need to know that you understand that everyone makes mistakes. That way, they’ll let you know when something has gone wrong and they need your help rather than trying to hide their mistakes for fear of disappointing you or getting yelled at.
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