Want To Connect With One Of Your Kids? Try Focusing on Their Passion.
If you have a preteen (otherwise known as a tween), you may be in for quite a ride. My tween daughter (age 10) actually made me cry last week. And I am not the crier in this family. My husband is the one blubbering away at sentimental car commercials. It takes a lot to make me weepy. And well, she did it. She broke me.
The day started with her outrage (yes, outrage) that she had to leave the house shortly after waking up. Because as she put it, she needed time to “relax.” After 10 hours of sleep, she had an intense need for relaxation.
Then came a stop at the grocery store where I wouldn’t buy her a dessert that had artificial colors. First she ranted, “Everyone at school gets awesome desserts and white bread and….blah blah blah.” Then she actually sat down on the floor by the frozen dessert section and covered her face with her hands in protest.
The final conflict came shortly after we arrived home. She wanted to go swimming. But we had other plans. And that’s when she deemed me, “The worst mother in the world.” It was said very very loudly. You know, for emphasis.
Given that I pour a lot of love and energy into my children, that really cut into me. I knew she was just angry and didn’t mean it but there is only so much one woman can take. And I broke out in tears.
Connecting these days with my 10 year old is very tricky. Which is pretty much how I found myself on a horse farm shoveling poop.
I don’t like horses. I come from a family of very accomplished riders so I should really really like horses but I don’t. It’s not the horse’s fault. I just find them gigantic and I would prefer if they would stand still like statues.
In spite of this, I took my 10 year old to volunteer at a farm that works with abused horses. We picked up poop, brushed the horses, that sort of thing. Of course I kept getting all fidgety and nervous every time one of the animals started stomping around and acting too horse-like. But my daughter absolutely loved it….
And then I realized it. Here I was, doing something I had no interest in doing but it was pretty awesome because my daughter and I were actually bonding.
And it happens in the car too. My daughter adores music. So as we drive to and from camp, she plays DJ on my phone and we sing along to our favorite songs. Suddenly a silent ride filled with one word responses from her is a drive filled with laughter and our own renditions of the “Pitch Perfect” songs.
I remember my own mother trying to engage in my passions when I was young. Like shopping. But as much as she tried, my mother just seemed to follow me around, sort of bewildered by all the bright clothes. And instead of bringing us together, her zombie-like state kind of detracted from the experience. But I give her props for trying.
So when I find myself at that magical girl glitter haven, Justice, I make a real effort to put my phone away and stifle the urge to say, “Hurry up girls.” Instead, I watch my two oldest daughters as they run gleefully in and out of the dressing room, only stopping to give me quick fashion shows.
As a parent, it’s not possible to embrace everything your child loves. I still loathe that game Chutes and Ladders. And imaginary Barbie play is painfully mind numbing. But it’s worth trying to make an effort. A short amount of focus on your children’s interests seems to make a big difference.
For example, playing is a key component of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (for kids age 2 to 7), used to strengthen the emotional connection with your child. In this therapy, parents use PRIDE parenting skills where they set up a short special playtime with their child (10 – 15 minutes per day) and let the child lead the play and direct the conversation. You can find examples here.
In the end, I know I’m not nearly the worst mother in the world.
And my daughter is definitely not the worst daughter. Far from it.
As she grows and changes, we are just trying to find our moments of togetherness amongst all the horse poop.