These are my guys! Two of them are 11 years old and fit squarly into the pre-teen category.
I don’t think that term, pre-teen, was in use when I would have been one, but you hear it quite a lot these days. It generally refers to kids who don’t consider themselves kids anymore, but they can’t call themselves teenagers yet either.
Pre-teens are roughly 10-12 years old, and aren’t quite sure if they want to be care-free kids or mature grown-ups. They crave independence but aren’t so sure about responsibility. They exhibit a lot of emotion and not a whole lot of logic!
Pre-teens are on the verge of growing up and may show glimpses of maturity, but the picture still has a lot of gaps. In 1 Corinthians 13:11 the Apostle Paul said, “When I was a child I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. but when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”
On the whole, parenting pre-teens can be frustrating, because doing away with childishness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, and we often don’t know whether the child or the wanna-be-adult will make an appearance at any given time.
Will it be the “play with legos all day and forget I have chores” child or the “I’d like to find some extra chores to do, so I can start saving up for my first car” man?
While this may be a challenging time for us as parents (it is for them as kids too), it is also an exciting time. Little by little, as slow as it may seem, our children are becoming adults.
I am by no means an expert. Those handsome young men above are our oldest – our first parental experiments if you will! That’s right, twins first. So we can mess up two at one time! Kidding, of course, but for the grace of God, we probably would mess them up. Thankfully, we cannot mess up God’s work in our kids’ lives. He can redeem even our worst parenting days and is always on our side. (Romans 8:31)
Four Tips For Successfully Parenting Pre-Teens
The ideas I share with you are not born from the wisdom of experience. They are born from a mom’s desire to go through this time of transition with her kids well. A desire to come alongside, to help them grow, to see them succeed.
1. Respect Who They Are Becoming
They are becoming adults. I know . . . they’re not there yet, but they’re headed in the right direction. They’re becoming less and less dependent on us. Think of all the things we no longer have to do for them! Diapers, baths, cutting up food, tying shoes and more! Raising children means bringing them up from childhood into adulthood.
Our pre-teens still depend on us for a lot (sometimes it still feels like we have to bathe them and change their shoes!), and they have a long way to go before we send them off as independent, responsible adults. The transition takes time. The growth means change. It’s not easy for either of us! We are the adults. We live where they are trying to get to. Let’s support their growth. Let’s put out our hands and help up to their destination. Let’s encourage the maturity we see developing and respect the adults they are becoming.
2. Regularly Affirm Your Love and Support
We love our kids. We loved who they were when they were little (mostly!). We love who we see them becoming (mostly!). But they’re not always sure of that. Our pre-teens aren’t sure of a whole lot right now. They’re not sure if they even want to grow up. They’re not sure if we’re right or they’re friends are right. They probably act like everyone is right except us, but they’re really not sure. They’re trying to figure it out.
Oh, they still need our wisdom. They also desperately need our affirmation and support. They need it again, and they need it again. Let’s make sure they know we still love them when their attitudes stink and their actions are rotten. Let’s make sure they know that we’ve got their backs. That even when we’re dissappointed, we still love them. We are still on their side. Let’s forgive and help them recover and do-over. Let’s tell them we can see growth and can tell they are maturing.
3. Keep Your Cool
This is an emotional time. Our pre-teens aren’t that great at controlling their emotions. Or making wise choices. That means we parents will have some pretty big emotions of our own to contend with as we respond to their choices. Let’s be the adults. Let’s show them a better way. Let’s keep our cool when the heat gets turned up! Will we blow it? You bet! Let’s not brush it under the rug. Let’s not wallow in it either. Let’s step back, repent, make it right and move forward in grace. (1 John 1:9, repeatedly!)
Paul Tripp states in his book, Age of Opportunity, “Anticipate the fact that you will need the self-control that only the Holy Spirit can give.” Let’s rely on the Holy Spirit to keep our spirits in check.
4. Keep Communication Open
For the little things and the big things and the hard things. Maybe you have a talker who tells you everything. Maybe you have a quiet one who barely answers direct questions. Regardless, we must keep communication open with our pre-teens. And I don’t mean make sure you tell them everything they need to know! Communication is a reciprocal process. One person transmits information and the other receives it. We parents have plenty to transmit. Let’s remember to open up the receiving end as well. I saw a little sign recently that stated, “LISTEN and SILENT are composed of the same letters.” Let’s spend time being silent enough to listen what our kids want and need us to hear.
About those hard things . . . let’s not wait for our kids to come to us! Let’s be the ones to start those conversations. Our pre-teens’ brains are maturing. So are their bodies. That means hormones will begin to kick in, giving them signals they may not know what to do with. Let’s take time to address those issues. Hopefully you’ve already started those conversations. You know the ones I mean – about sex. It’s time to revisit them!
Our culture is throwing all kinds of information about sex at our kids . . . trouble is, most of it is wrong. Wrong philosophy, wrong perpspective, wrong attitude. Giving your pre-teens a biblical view of their bodies and sex is imperative. It can also be intimidating! Finding the right time . . . the right words . . . the right answers to their questions . . .
Did you know there’s solid, biblical help available? Allow me to introduce to you:
Passport2Purity was developed by FamilyLife to “assist you in building heart-to-heart communication with your pre-teen while laying a foundation of purity that will prepare him or her for the turbulent years ahead.” It is designed as a “GetawayKit” with the suggestion that the material be covered over a weekend away from home. The kit includes a Tour Guide (for the parent), a Travel Journal (for the pre-teen) and 8 CDs containing 5 sessions to open up discussion on a variety of topics including peer pressure, sex, pornography, dating and more.
The Passport2Purity Getaway Kit, now in its third edition, has been available to assist parents with hard conversations for 15 years! I had never heard of it until recently when I received an offer from FlyBy Promotions to review a copy. Since our oldest are boys, I asked my husband if he would be interested in using the material. He’s on top of these things and already had a date on his calendar for talking to the twins and was appreciative of the opportunity.
While the material could be covered over several weeks at home, we agreed that it might be easier to discuss these topics outside their normal environment. So, I booked them a hotel room and a kayaking trip. Looks like they had fun!
So, what did we think?
It’s great! Of course, a program like Passport2Purity isn’t necessary to guide your kids through these sensitive issues, but it sure makes it easier! Here are a few qualities of the kit that we really appreciated (while I did not go on their weekend with them, I did preview most of the CDs):
- Exalts the pre-eminence of Christ – as the Creator and designer of our bodies
- Proclaims the authority of Scripture – as the standard to use for making decisions
- Supports the priority of parental influence – as the most important continuing voice in our kids’ lives
- Encourages relationship – weekend getaway format allows uninterrupted time together; schedule includes a fun activity
- Promotes discussion – having someone else present the information makes questions and further discussion more likely
- Encourages continuing conversation – not meant to be the only time we talk about difficult topics
- Thorough presentation – the CDs brought up things we may never have thought to address
- Clear, forth-right and honest – uses proper terminology and accurate descriptions
- Pro-active – addresses potential pitfalls before they become problems
- Follow-up book available – So, You’re About To Be A Teenager: Godly Advice for Preteens on Friends, Love, Sex, Faith and Other Life Issues
We would certainly recommend the Passport2Purity Getaway Kit to other parents. Discussing purity and forming a plan to deal with inevitable temptation is important. The weekend also helped us affirm our love and support for our boys and show them that we do respect who they are becoming.
Interested in using the Passport2Purity Getaway Kit with you pre-teen? Visit the FamilyLife website for more information including an introductory video. FamilyLife is also offering 25% off the kit on their website with promo code PASSPORT through August 31, 2015.
Have you successfully parented pre-teens? What tips would you share?
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