Five ways to connect with your older child, and enjoy the process! They may not fit in our laps, but they’ll always fit in our hearts.
The truth is I used to be terrified of parenting older children. Little ones came naturally to me, their chubby hands fit nicely into mine and a kiss could dry the biggest of tears. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to mother a pre-teen, or that my teenagers would simply disconnect and our precious days of early motherhood would be long gone.
Boy, I was wrong.
As it turns out my pre-teen is an amazing kid. I genuinely enjoy spending time with him, and though we struggle with the occasional bad attitude, I’ve begun to find that connecting with him in his own unique way is just what we need to nurture our relationship.
Five Ways to Connect with Your Older Child
ONE ON ONE TIME
We enjoy one on one dates with the kids, and I have found these times to be most important for my oldest. It is during one of these dates, whether it be an hour or a few, that we get a chance to really connect. I allow him to choose (within reason), though often we default to the same locations – Barnes & Noble and a special drink out. Getting away, just the two of us, gives him a break from his younger siblings, and gives us the precious space to chat and to laugh, and enjoy a shared interest.
LET THEM LEAD
Allowing our older child to spread his wings has been easier on my husband than me. I see in him both the little boy who used to carry a bucket of cars around and a young man who is now inches taller than me. Giving him the chance to lead, whether it be in deciding where we go for dinner or which board game the family will play, gifts him with a sense of leadership and responsibility. He earns these opportunities and in turn, feels pride and connection within our family.
BE INTERESTED IN THEIR INTERESTS
Often times the activities and hobbies our pre-teens are interested in are not the same things we enjoy. It’s easy to forget that what is important to them should be important to us. I have found that setting down my to-do list, putting away my phone, and focusing on the thing he is really into, connects us in new and unique ways. Though my eyes sometimes glaze, his brighten when he explains his latest Minecraft build to me. More times than I can count he thanks me for taking the time to hear about what he is loving. Connecting with our big kids can be as simple as ten minutes with them and their passions.
Connecting with our big kids can be as simple as ten minutes with them and their passions.
LEARN WITH THEM
Find something you’re both intrigued by is a wonderful way to spend time together. It’s never too late to learn and I believe allowing our children to see us continue our education, (even if in a small way) encourages them that they too can continue to learn. It could be nature study, a challenging game, or foreign language. My twelve-year-old and I have both decided we’d love to play the ukulele. We chose one we liked, ordered it on Amazon, and have been practicing with one another. Learning music has been both hard work and something we enjoy doing together.
TALK WITH THEM
Last but certainly not least, remember to continue the conversation, no matter their age. Instead of the usual, “How was school today?”, try a specific question such as, “What was the best part of your day?” or “What happened with your science experiment?”. Being a busy mom of three, I find it easy to get into a routine of asking questions, but not giving my full attention for their answer. Giving my undivided consideration, and remembering eye contact, goes a long way in connecting with my children. I believe that the more we talk and communicate throughout their childhood, the more we are able to continue this throughout their adulthood as well.
I believe that the more we talk and communicate throughout their childhood, the more we are able to continue this throughout their adulthood as well.
It’s Well Worth the Effort
You’re not alone if you feel anxious about the years ahead in motherhood. I am here to tell you it isn’t all that scary! Taking the time to connect with my pre-teen as he navigates this new phase of life has been a blessing. We are closer than I could have hoped, and the effort put into our relationship is worth every minute devoted to it. Let’s gift them with our time, our hearts, and our ability to connect – it’s a choice I know we won’t regret.