Communicating With Tweens

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by Stacey Schifferdecker

Parents of toddlers may wonder sometimes when their children will stop talking, but parents of tweens are more likely to figure out how to get their former chatterbox children to open up and communicate again. Tweens are children from about 10-12 years old, so-called because they are “between” children and teenagers. This is a time when children typically start challenging their parents, relying more on peers than parents for approval, and developing their own values and opinions. You may think, then, that your tween isn’t interested in communicating with you—but just the opposite is true. Tweens are usually desperate for information and communication; they just don’t how to let you know that. So how do you open the lines of communication with your tween? 
First of all, start off small. If you haven’t had any good chats with your tween lately, don’t jump in the deep end immediately by bringing up sensitive or embarrassing topics. Instead, begin talking and asking about everyday events such as tests and basketball practice. Be supportive and positive during these conversations: if you start criticizing, your tween will clam back up. Also try not to offer advice unless your tweens ask for it. They may just want to talk out an issue and figure out the solution themselves. 
Feel like you’re copping out by talking about this small stuff? Just remember that you and your tween need to become comfortable talking about the small stuff before you are ready to tackle tougher topics such as sex and drugs. After all, most of life is made up of the everyday stuff. You are laying groundwork so when your tweens face bigger issues, they will be comfortable coming to you to talk. 
 Another advantage of talking about the small stuff is that you will be spending more time communicating, which is the second crucial step in improving communication with your tween. According to the Philips’ “Let's Connect” Family Communicating Survey, nearly half of the kids surveyed spend less than 30 minutes a day talking with their parents. Find times and places to talk. And if you sense your tween wants to talk, stop what you are doing and listen. It may not be the most convenient time, but you may not get a second chance. 
Drive time seems to be a favorite time for kids to open up, probably because they can talk without you looking at them. So turn off the radio and turn on your listening ears. Also, give your time to decompress after school. The same tweens who barely mutter hello right after school may open up a few hours later if you don’t push them to talk. Another idea is to help your tweens with their chores. They will appreciate the help and you will be spending time together—an ideal opportunity for a conversation to develop. 
As you and your tweens talk, make sure you are giving them the same respect you would give an adult. Listen, don’t interrupt or prejudge, and consider their opinions. Of course, you should also expect your tweens to acknowledge and consider your opinions. You don’t have to agree, but you can disagree respectfully. 
You should also make sure that you are clear and detailed when you speak to your . For example, if they go to a movie, tell them exactly what time you expect them home. A vague “Come home after the movie” is open to interpretation. 
Good communication and effective parenting with your tween takes time and effort, but it will pay off with a warm and close relationship that will last your entire life.

Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.

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