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Part II: Just When You Think You Understand Your Kids…They Change!

Today's column wil focus on children 10-years-old and older.

This article was written by Margaret Hannah, M.Ed, Executive Director, Freedman Center for Child and Family Development at .

Click here for Part I.

Most parents are eager to do a good job. But it seems there is always something to learn: a new technique to try, a different struggle to overcome. Just when a parent feels competent and confident about an appropriate parenting style or technique, the child changes.

Confidence and competence may be replaced by feelings of bewilderment and betrayal, as the parent needs to re-think, re-learn, or re-invent his/her approach. How can mothers and fathers learn to enjoy this constantly-evolving parenting puzzle?

It is important to have a plan.

Each new stage of a child’s development is accompanied by changes that, though they may challenge parents, are actually positive proclamations: the child is growing! Each stage requires a particular parental approach. Armed with a little knowledge about those stages, parents can nurture the child appropriately, while anticipating and preparing for upcoming changes. 

Below are a few tips for each stage of development that have been tried by thousands of parents with success. Yet the most important thing to remember as a parent is this: Tune into the child you have, trust your gut, and respond accordingly. 

Today's column will discuss children from 10- to 18-years-old. Yesterday's column focused on newborns to 10-years-old

Ten to 15-years-old

The time of many emotions: preadolescence…think listening.

Preadolescents truly are “be-tweens” — yearning for independence and acceptance, and eager to voice their opinions, while at times still wanting to be treated like a “kid.” The parenting challenge is to help the child be confident, make healthy choices, and be appropriately responsible.

Parents need to be clear about family values and also give the preadolescent opportunities to make choices and make mistakes. They can encourage positive choices by noticing and commenting appropriately. If a less-than-positive choice has been made, they can notice that too, and offer support and guidance for a healthy choice next time.

During these emotional years, parents should remind themselves to listen to their “tween,” and to send frequent, friendly “I-messages” (i.e., “I saw that you took the recycling bin to the curb. Thank you!”).  They need to tune into their own feelings of frustration or anger when speaking with their tween, and they should be prepared to remove themselves from the conversation, if necessary. Most important at this stage of development, parents must make an effort to show respect, faith, and love in all their interactions with their tween – even when it's not easy!

Fifteen to 18-years-old

The time of “almost there:” adolescence…think letting go…but still hold on!

The adolescent is quite adult looking, but he/she still needs parental supervision and guidance. Parents must be clear about their expectations. They must engage their teen in mutual problem solving, and consequences need to be firm and friendly, in order to encourage the teen to take responsibility.

Goal setting with adolescents tends to be well received as long as the parents can “let go” and realize teens can “own” their choices more easily now than they did as tweens. Teens have growing negotiating abilities. They should be allowed to practice these skills and allowed to live with the consequences of any failed negotiations. Teens need to be empowered to learn from their choices and encouraged to follow through on their goals.

Adolescence is ultimately a wonderful time for parent and child alike, as they put the final puzzle pieces into place together, and the teen makes the successful transition to adulthood.

About the Freedman Center at MSPP:

Families too often find it difficult to access mental health and wellness services for their children due to a critical shortage of providers and the absence of a community of support and sharing.

The Richard I. and Joan L. Freedman Center for Child and Family Development was established at The Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP) to help connect children and families with appropriate information, providers, resources, and one another to serve their mental health and wellness needs.

Creating a strong community of support to promote mental health and wellness involves a multi-faceted approach.  The Freedman Center offers services to meet these multiple needs:

  • Accessible and quality programming for children and families
  • Continuing education programs for professionals. 
  • Consultation to and collaboration with community partners, including schools, organizations, and physicians
  • Culturally and linguistically sensitive approach to the creation and delivery of all services
  • Training of future mental health providers
  • Participation in state and legislative initiatives and social advocacy

For more information visit the Freedman Center's website

For questions or comments, write to thepatch@mspp.edu

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