While it is a beautiful process to watch our tweens and teens grow into adulthood, there are many bumps and bruises along the way and sometimes our parent child relationship becomes strained.
While that's normal and that's just part of the process, it sure doesn't make it easy!
It takes work and lots of intentional bonding with our kids through these sometimes challenging years to maintain a strong relationship with a tween or teen.
There's no perfect formula, but what if there were mindsets we could adopt as parents that would allow us to maintain strong relationships with our kids as they change and discover who they are?
Here are four important principles I've learned about bonding with my kids.
4 Helpful Mindsets for Building a Strong Relationship with Your Tween
Mindset #1: Bonding with tweens is more about closeness than attachment.
I was a parent who practiced attachment parenting. I nursed. We co-slept. I “wore” my babies in slings and wraps. I monitored play dates. I mean, look at me: I'm a homeschool mom.
But children grow up and are expected to become independent. They are not “ours” forever. They grow up. They get married. They create families of our own.
It is a key factor in their cognitive/biological development to become independent. We want them to be independent, competent, and confident when they leave the nest.
And leave they nest they will.
What can that look like? We want to make something super complicated out of it, but often, it can just be about talking to our kids. Ask your kids questions! Draw them out. Offer suggestions or share your own opinions and thoughts in a non-confrontational manner.
I'm learning to not react with anger when my kids' opinions or statement differ from mine. (I'm constantly praying about this one since my son has very strong opinions!). It helps when I realize that my tween is testing the waters of this world, most notably his own ideas. I've found that his opinions and thoughts change rapidly (like mine did at his age).
Mindset #2: Strong relationships are founded in secure foundations where safety and trust can grow.
Our kids need us to be stable and secure. They need us to be there.
Their hormones are changing at such rapid rates. Their opinions are forming and their thoughts are hopping from one to the next.
We are the adults! We are the “wise ones.” Our kids won't tell us this, but they need us to be their safety. And whether or not they admit it, they need our wisdom and direction.
Overreacting, much like a child, threatens a child's security and tells his or her brain that this other person cannot be trusted.
Mindset #3: Bonding with tweens is more about what's real than ideal.
We want a perfect world for our children don't we? A safe haven. A plastic bubble. 😉
But reality is that our children will go through things…things that may scare us. Modern society is a dysfunctional place and there is much to attract, tempt, or involve our youths in. If we have not created a place of safety and trust, will our child go to us?
And, since our children are imperfect human beings, we also must face these facts:
Sometimes they will keep secrets.
Sometimes they will lie.
And sometimes they will disagree.
I'm not saying to allow these things or not give consequences, but to remind us that we parents can't be shocked by this.
“Foolishness is tied up in the heart of a child,” the Bible tell us in Proverbs 22:15.
We must prepare our heart and mind for these realities. We can't hold on to our child too tightly, demand unrealistic expectations, or unfairly judge them. And we have to be careful to not label them.
I, myself, am learning this the hard way. At times I catch myself acting stunned that “my child would say [or do] such a thing!” Sound familiar?
As hard as it can be, we mustn't hold our tweens and teens to any expectations that our loving God wouldn't. While He wants us to live righteously and follow His ways, He also “remembers that we are dust” and “puts our sins off as far as sunrise to sunset.”
I'm learning to maintain reality, drop my expectations, and become my child's partner in reasoning on healthy boundaries and good behavior.
Mindset #4: Parenting through the tween years is more about love than fear.
The best definition of love I have ever read is in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 in the Bible:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag. Does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for it's own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
When we let love be our guide for actions and behaviors, we can reap the benefits.
All too often as parents, we can let fear dominate a child's spirit.
Wow, I am guilty of this.
Because I do love my children, and want their lives to be filled with joy and for them to become adults with healthy self-esteem, I panic when I see behaviors that won't reap these results.
And then things go downhill from there.
I've realized that when I discipline with fear. Simply put, I try to control the situation, and then I watch the focus on the relationship and bonding take a backseat.
Sometimes I've seen how parenting from fear instead of love encourages rebellion in a child or births a “they don't understand me” attitude. Loving actions and attitudes begin to fade away, replaced by darker emotions.
In Bonding with Our Kids, Love Reigns Supreme
Yes, I am learning that if I can keep these four mindsets when dealing with my growing and maturing children, a rich beautiful bond is developed with my kids.
I can learn to ditch the idea of creating the “perfect” parent child relationship, and instead let love reign.
Love: this is how we can ride the bumps of the sometimes tumultious road to adulthood with grace (and our relationships in tact).
Colossians 3:14 agrees, describing a relationship rooted in love as a “perfect bond of union.”