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Hi, friend!

Welcome to The Big Family Home! I’m Amy. I like talking with God, candles, magazines, movie nights, the beach, big cities, big ideas, quaint little towns, and pretty much anything new. I am a wife and a mom of six kids who is trying to evolve into the calm, confident person I want to bring to my dinner table every night.

3 More Tips for Communicating with Tweens

3 More Tips for Communicating with Tweens

Hey friend 👋🏻!! Earlier this week, I posted my 3 top tips for parenting tween girls. If you missed that post, please go check it out here. As soon as I hit the “publish” button, I thought of a hundred more things God has been teaching me on this subject. With our little kids, our main focus is and has always been OBEDIENCE. And I felt comfortable with that, because it’s super black and white! Like “sit down when you’re at the table…Use kind words…Stop hitting your sister because hands are for hugging.” Thankfully, somewhere after age 7 they finally kinda catch on to that; but now that we have tweens, we have had to move on to COMMUNICATION. And even though my family jokes that I’m always just full of words, God has had to teach me plenty of lessons about communicating with our tweens. Yikes; it can feel like I never know the right thing to say to them. Here are just a few of the lessons I’m learning…

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1. Have family meetings! Maybe it’s just because we have so darn many people living in our house, but I’m starting to learn that every time we have a pressure point at home, here’s what it looks like for me: I am totally frustrated, the dishes are piled up everywhere, I haven’t showered in 3 days and am on day 2 of the same yoga pants, and kids are tattling left and right—because somewhere along the way, someone didn’t do what they were supposed to do.

And here’s what it looks like for the tweens and teens: 🤳🏼💅🏻. They seriously can. not. care.

UNLESS—I pause, recognize the stress, and call a family meeting. Once we all sit down and have a minute to breathe, it’s usually pretty easy to see the particular issue. Maybe everyone has been sleeping in a few minutes too late, or maybe the upstairs is sliding into frat-house status and nobody has put away all the clothes it took me all day to wash and fold and deliver to them (oops—did I just slip into martyrdom? 🤦‍♀️) Whatever the genesis of the issue—and it can almost always be pinpointed to one certain issue that sets the chaos into motion—we tackle it much better together. Instead of recognizing it and prepping a big “talk,” I have found it works much better with our tweens and teens to sit down and tell them:

A. I’m feeling super frustrated by the chaos. Moms are humans, too; and I feel perfectly fine telling them that I’m going to go crazy if we don’t address whatever it is.

B. Someone(s)’ breakdown in owning their responsibility is affecting more than just that person, because that’s how it works when you’re part of a unit. This is true whether it’s a family or a team or some other group to which they belong. Their actions affect more than just themselves.

C. I need their help in brainstorming about how we will all pitch in and divvy up the clean-up effort. Someone needs to get out the markers and poster board and make a plan that we all agree on, so that we can recover. If we make a plan and make it visible, they hold each other much more accountable, which is awesome because I often forget to follow up myself.

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2. Talk to them about drugs, underage drinking, sex, and peer pressure WAY before you’re ready. I started talking to my girls about boys and peer pressure almost as soon as they started school. I’m not in any way prescribing this as the only right time to talk about these things, but what I am saying is that wanting them to “stay little” turned out not to equip them very well when we first started out. So when they were very young, I kept it simple. Now as they are getting older, it seems to be working to emphasize the same points with more reason and spirituality. Here are some examples of what that has looked like for us:

A. Drugs are illegal. Therefore we don’t even consider ever letting them in our lives…then, as they get older, it goes more like this: drugs are dangerous. Some people try them once and are destroyed by them, and some people are able to move on. You’ll never know which person you are until you try, and why on earth would you take that risk? It’s like shooting a gun at yourself to see if it’s loaded! And either way, they are the enemy’s craftiest tool to steal your life, which is his whole objective. Don’t let him win—stay away from drugs and people who do them, because you’re better than that. {Side note: Now that they’re older, my kids hear me say these things probably three times a week.}

B. Sexual interactions are for marriage. Then when they’re older…we talk a lot about what it looks like to choose purity, and also what it looks like when we don’t. I’m pretty realistic with them about how rare it is to find teens who choose purity (even Christian teens), and I mention some of the regrets I have about my own choices at that age. We point out how it seems like a sexual sin is between only two people, and when you’re in the moment you think it can only negatively affect you and the other person. But unfortunately, that’s not true. Sin’s consequences are always far-reaching, and I am careful to tell them about some of the negative consequences I’m still experiencing from my own sexual sins when I was younger. I know it is SO awkward to be transparent with your kids about this, but there are worse things in the long run than feeling awkward with your tween and them knowing uncomfortable things about your past.

C. When both younger and older: we tell them that real friends care about your soul. Real friends don’t encourage you to say bad words when you’re 6 or copy a paper when you’re 10 or sleep with someone and give away your heart when you’re 15. Surround yourself with people who value doing the right thing even when nobody’s looking.

{Another side note: All these things seem to be easier to talk about in the car, when they’re literally trapped and can’t get away from you and also don’t have to look you right in the eye 😂}

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3. Say it over and over to them: you are enough and you have enough. We both remember, friend, how hard it was to be a tween and teen. No matter what your story was, there were always times when you were painfully aware of and insecure about how you’re not measuring up. Tweens are suddenly more aware of the people around them than they were a few years earlier, but most of them haven’t had the life experiences to develop a balanced view of those people. So they often compare themselves to all these “perfect” people, not realizing that everyone has their hard things and insecurities. When I was that age, I filled my own head with tons of lies about everyone being prettier than me, having better clothes than me, more friends than me, and whatever else. And I find that my own kids tell themselves the same lies—after all, there’s nothing new under the sun, right?

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So I have to combat those same lies our kids hear with the truth! God’s word says “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:6) Meaning, if you have Jesus, you have enough. Someone will always have more than we have, and lots of people have less. Each one of us is made in His image, which is perfect; and the most attractive thing we can put on is a smile. So speak it over them, to them, and about them: (your tween’s name) IS enough. (Your tween’s name) HAS enough. God has made our lot secure.

I can so easily get caught up in pressuring my tweens to perform a certain way, because I know they’re capable of so much. But if I cross over into making them feel like they’re acceptable only when they perform up to their capabilities, I’ve crossed the line. For me, it’s so important to tell them out loud, “I am so pleased with you no matter what. You are enough; just like you are.” Again, kinda awkward and maybe even cheesy to have coming out of your mouth, but who are we trying to impress? These statements remind both them and myself the truth, because I’m just as easily deceived as they are sometimes. It doesn’t mean we don’t push them to keep going and be responsible and make good choices and all the rest of it; it just means that even when they don’t, we are still proud of who they are and who they’re becoming. And we’re confident that who they become is less about what they do and more about God’s sanctifying work in their lives, thank goodness!

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In all of these tough subjects with our tweens, I have to pray really hard to listen more than I talk. Because goodness knows I can get on a soapbox and feel like I’m really killing it at throwing them the wisdom! Bless my heart; I mean well. But even if I say all the right things (which I often don’t) and offer all the right advice, if I don’t show them how much I love them and enjoy their presence and have genuine interest about the details of their lives; it’s all just a bunch of noise. I feel like I can really over-complicate things, and when I just simply tell them how much I look forward to watching a movie with them or how happy I am to see them after school, they respond so well. Note to self: Keep it simple, Mama!! If I’m not careful, I can prioritize all the goals of who they’ll become over just enjoying who they are.

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What has worked in your family? Do you find it easy or tough to tackle these subjects with your kids? Please share your experiences in the comments below; we can learn so much from other parents!

Our Story:  By Joel

Our Story: By Joel

3 Top Tips For Parenting Tween Girls

3 Top Tips For Parenting Tween Girls