The last conversation with my preteen daughter consisted of the following:
Me: How’s it going, Sweetie?
Me: Hey, I like your outfit.
Preteen (looks away from her comic book, frowning): Mom, did you know you’re developing a unibrow?
How sweet – the child cares about the state of my eyebrows. At that moment, I think we really bonded.
Pitiful, you say? I’ve lost my grip on reality? I disagree. What’s happening is that I’m learning to read between the preteen lines. You should take my advice – for your sanity - and do the same.
Here are a few more tips on keeping the lines of communication open during the nasty, ahem, tender pre-teen (and teen) years.
Be willing to ante up.
So what if it takes a little cash to make her spill her guts? It works.
Preteen: Can I have $5 to buy some stickers?
Me: No, unless you earn it.
Preteen: Mommy, I have a problem with my best friend because she doesn’t like my other best friend. What should I do?
Me: Here’s $10 for those stickers.
Capitalize on moments of weakness
My preteen will do almost anything to avoid going to sleep or doing her homework. She’ll even – GASP – talk.
So is it wrong if I let her put off doing her homework for a friendly chat? Am I a bad parent because we have our best conversations at 10 p.m., when the child should be asleep? These are desperate times – I do what I have to do. Where my kid’s psyche is concerned, I need to be in the know.
Learn the lingo
“That show was jank, yo.”
You need to know what that means.
In fact, call me if you want to come along to a 5-day “kids-speak” language seminar in the Bahamas next month – it’s an immersion program, which really is the best way to learn an intimidating, new language. The instructors are ages 10 – 14, and because they’re working for extremely good wages, they are quite friendly. If nothing else, we’ll get a tan at the beach and hang out with young people who will actually talk to us.
I don’t know about yours, but if I say the wrong thing to my preteen, she’ll clam up. So, when it’s time for a friendly reminder for her to clean her deathtrap – I mean, bedroom – my phrasing is delicate. I may say, “Sweat pea, that artistic arrangement of dirty socks is truly inspired. But perhaps you could clear a path so that the rats can make it over to your desk for one of the tasty food items you’ve left behind.”
Worship the written word
When they were little, we told them, “Use your words.” Remember that? Now, some of us are grateful if they at least write some of them down.
From the time she could scribble a few letters, my daughter and I have written notes to each other. Now, that’s often how I get the best 411. (Little did I know that I was training her for the annoying world of cell phone texting.)
Writing comes in especially handy when we’re having a disagreement or if I’ve done something wrong (which happens about every six or seven minutes.) I will write, ““I’m sorry I told everyone in my book club that you sing show tunes in your sleep, but I’m just so proud of your talent!”
I also leave notes to do a chore – like cleaning globs of green toothpaste off the counter - instead of telling her because I know the conversation will not be pretty.
Don’t expect to communicate outside of the home
It’s nearly impossible to have a fullfilling conversation in public with my daughter because she usually orders me to whisper. Soon, I’ll be banned from talking altogether. But she won’t get rid of me that easy – I intend to text her silly.
And work on that unibrow.