Your tween is developing new ways of seeing the world. From accepting everything you say to formulating opinions of his own, this is a fascinating time for your tween -- and for you. Tweens are learning to think critically, and questioning your authority, your methods and your beliefs is part of that process. Think of it as a time when he's putting on lots of hats to find one that's a good fit (at least for now).
Don't lose out on this time by being put off when your child tries to distance himself from you. He's making room to explore his options. His friends are becoming more important. He's learning to refine his sense of humor. The need to develop a personal style is motivating him to explore new ways of speaking, dressing and interacting. The more you help him do that, the more room there'll be for you in his daily life.
- Be available. Being uncool doesn't mean being unimportant. Talk to your tween every day. Maintain an emotional connection. If she resists your overtures, be persistent. Maintain eye contact with her when you talk together; hug her occasionally. Let her know that you'll be there for her whether she thinks you're amazing or not.
- Don't be hurt. Once you recognize that separating from you is a natural, healthy process, it's easier to accept. Carry on as though nothing has happened. Include him in family activities and plans. Consider this a phase, and take the long view.
- Be a parent and not a buddy.You probably want to be both a parent and a friend to your tween, but chances are that she has plenty of friends right now. It's important for you to maintain your parental role, continue established routines and enforce discipline. If she doesn't want you to be her movie buddy, roll with it. There'll be other opportunities for you to connect with her later.
- Embrace family time. Just because your tween thinks family time is a big yawn doesn't mean you should put a moratorium on family activities like picnics, pool parties, Sunday dinners and weekend shopping excursions. This is your family life, and the more normal everything stays, the better. Be consistent. In a world where she's changing, it's important for your tween to know that her home life will stay reliably the same.
- Share a hobby. If you share an interest with your tween, maintain a link to the activities you used to participate in together. Suggest spending time occasionally doing things you know you've both enjoyed in the past.
- Follow his new interests. Even if you don't share your tween's passion for, say, video games, at least try to discover what all the fuss is about. That way you can talk to him about his interests intelligently. If you're clueless, ask him to explain why he likes his current passion so much. Making him the expert is one great way to connect.
- Be open-minded. Even though you don't agree with everything she says and does, remain open-minded. Her safety is paramount, of course, but stepping out of the confines of the predictable world you've made for her is part of the learning process. Remember, she's a work in progress. Today's attitudes and opinions may be completely different next week. As long as she's showing respect for herself and others, give her some freedom. Chances are she'll end up exactly where you want her to be, but the journey will have been much more fulfilling (and instructive) because she got there on her own (kind of).
The next time your tween asks to walk ahead of you at the mall because you're cramping his style, consider it payback. You probably went through something very similar when you were his age. He'll come back around to the belief that you're OK -- and maybe better than OK -- for a grown-up. It'll just take some time.