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Monday
Sep172012

Is Your Tween a Monster in the Morning?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s 6:15am, you know your tween has to be out the door by 6:45am in order to make the bus. You can hear his alarm going off but you notice that the lights are still off. You wrap lightly on the half open door. When you get no response you wrap harder. Finally after knocking for what feels like forever, you slowly push open the door only to find your tween peacefully snoring away. You feel the panic  as your stomach tightens. You gently rouse him by pushing on his shoulder and brace yourself for his response. You call his name and shake him harder. Finally you see him slowly half open one of his eyes. You cringe, take a step back and wait for it: “What?” he crassly growls. You remind him of the time and express your concern that he needs to get up. “I’m up, I’m up,” he shouts, clearly annoyed. “Do you mind ,” he says, “I have to get dressed.” You get that this is your cue to exit and do as he has requested but you are reticent. You are not really sure he is getting up. He gives you that stare that says ‘get out now or else.’ You quickly comply.

 

Look, as you know, not everyone is a morning person. Starting your day by managing a testy tween however, is never a joy. Whether it’s the look, the tone, stare, eye rolling or even a snort or a growl, bearing the brunt of a tired tween can be off putting to say the least. Keeping your cool, calm demeanor can be especially challenging if like your tween you are simply not a morning person.

Before we get into some simple suggestions on how to address the situation, let’s take a moment to discuss some important developmental details:

1.)    As your children enter puberty their sleep cycle starts to change. You might notice your tween stays up later and then does not want to get up in the morning. The closer your tween gets to teenhood, the more common is this pattern. This is a naturally part of growth and development. One important note, the later your tween stays up, the less tired she becomes.

2.)    The older your tween gets, the more sleep he requires.

3.)    Some of the morning irritability your tween displays may also be due to the hormonal changes which start to take place during these years.

4.)    While your tween has the ability to use perspective taking, he does not naturally see things from your point of view. If he displays an attitude toward you when you try to wake him up, he probably does not realize how irritated he comes off. Although he may have seemed angry when you woke him up, once he is awake he will be back to himself without any realization that he came off less than kind to you.

5.)    5.) As your kids grow into tweens, they become more aware of the world around them. This insight can sometimes result in stress and anxiety regarding academic and social pressure. If your tween has started Middle School, this is especially common. Tweens sometimes have trouble falling asleep because they are worrying about these new pressures at bed time.

Now that you have the facts, how can you calmly manage your morning monster? Here are just a few ideas:

1.)    Make sure her bedtime routine is designed to settle not stimulate. Watching a scary television show for example, right before hitting the hay is not ideal. Establish a ritual that encourages calm right before bed. Reading before bed is often helpful.

2.)    If she struggles to fall asleep because she is stressed try this [proven trick: wet a washcloth with ice cold water and have her cover her face with it for about 10 minutes. (This trick can work for you too.) The shock of the cold will unstick her mind and move her into a less panicked state.

3.)    Work with him to develop clear and concise consequences if he does not get up in time to fulfill his time sensitive daily responsibilities (e.g. getting to school, go to church or Sunday school, etc). What does he think a fair consequence would be?

4.)    Put the pressure on her to get herself up in the morning. If you are tired of morning madness, work with her to figure out a full-proof method to get her out of bed in enough time. While taking yourself out of the wake-up role can be stressful at first, it will encourage her to devise a successful plan on her own.

5.)    5.) Let him work on his schedule, not the one you think he should follow. In other words, if he can get himself up and dressed in a shorter amount of time than you think he should let it go. As long as he gets out the door in a timely manner. This may mean he will have to have breakfast on the run. Although this may not be ideal, you will help him feel empowered and responsible.

6.)    Do not adjust your schedule to fit hers. If for example, she is constantly missing the bus which makes you late for work, the gym, a class, etc. It is imperative that you put your foot time. There should be a clear consequence if her morning plan puts you in a bind. Encourage her to re-work her schedule if she is not leaving herself enough time.

7.)    If you know your tween is not a morning person, do not take his attitude personally. Of course he should always demonstrate respect however, for example, avoid triggering him by chatting incessantly, or asking questions he is not in a state of mind to answer. This can be especially difficult if you tend to be a morning person.

Dealing with a monster in the morning is never fun or easy. Perhaps if you peruse through the above point sand suggestions however, your monster will start to seem more like Sesame Street’s Elmo rather than Oscar.

Tuesday
Sep042012

Let the Chaos Begin

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the passing of Labor Day, the last of America's kids return back to school. The relaxing routine of summer is at an end and the rigid routine of school days restarts.

Even if you are a working parent like me, the beginning of the school year still signifies the need to get back into the swing of things. Back to monitoring their studies, ensuring that homework and school work is completed in a timely, complete and of course comprehensible manner.

Scheduling their after school activities can be trying. Arranging carpools when possible and ensuring that all potential conflicts are worked out. Not such an easy feat especially if you have more than one child.

Stress increases as you step back hoping it will all go as planned,which unfortunately it often does not. Invariably, someone makes a schedule change, adds an extra practice, perhaps a scrimmage or an impromptu competition. The slightest change can result in chaos and calamity! Don't they realize you have already got it all figured out? You can not afford any changes to the carefully crafted schedule you have created!

Then there's the challenge of ensuring that your often absentminded tween has all the equipment and materials she needs not only for her academics but for all her activities as well.

Perhaps you have spent hours setting up an organized system to categorize all his stuff with the purpose of avoiding those last minute moments of lunacy when he can't find his backpack, helmet, art supplies, etc.

You can be sure that even with your simple system in place she will come to you in a frightening frenzy because she is already running late. "Do you know where my (fill in the blank) is?"

Her somewhat accusatory tone will unnerve you if only for a moment. You will tell her where to look. She will tell you it is not where you suggest. You will finally give in and go to find it yourself because you realize this back and forth banter is getting you both nowhere.  In the time it took for you to explain where it is, you walk out of her room with the item in your hand. She thanks you and a moment of accomplishment sets in. Only a moment however, because all this morning mayhem has resulted in lost time and the last thing you have time to do is drive her school.

And such is the chaos that signifies that school has indeed started. The goods news is that in no time you will once again adjust and what seemed like chaos will become your definition of common.

 

Saturday
Jun092012

On Parenting a Tween

Okay, to begin with, we were never tweens because this term did not exist! Although technically we were pre-adolescents we were simply called kids until we became teenagers. We never went to middle school, we went to junior high.  Junior high had a more sophisticated sound to it, as if we were older than a ‘middle schooler.’ In reality this is quite ironic because the kids or tweens as they are rightfully referred to today, seem to be so much more sophisticated, older than we were. Okay, maybe I am just speaking for myself here.

Parenting a tween brings many joys…and of course some stress. As a parent this period of time represents the beginning of a loss of total control over our kid’s lives. It is a period of time when our once compliant kids begin to ask questions. Instead of just doing they often ask why. As our kids interests in the world at large begin to expand, as parents, we are often challenged with guiding them toward the right choices. We no longer  have the total authority to make the choices for them such as, with whom they are friends, what sports or activities in which they will engage, or even what they will eat (I know a few tween’s who have chosen to become vegetarians). In a word, being a parent of a tween can be tricky.

We are excited by their interest and new found insights. At times we are surprised and even shocked by their affirmations of autonomy and independence. They often think they know better, and are not afraid of telling us. The term tween is well named as one minute they are telling us they can do it on their own, and the next they are turning to us for help, guidance and reassurance. They are truly caught between the carefree days sand dependent day of being a kid and the affirmation of independent identity that goes along with being a teen.

As a group they are truly caught in between. The developmental difference between tweens can be great. One tween reads Seventeen Magazine, while another still eagerly await s the arrival of Highlights. One tween sports the early growth of a mustache while another still sports the baby fat which will naturally shed in time. At no other time in a human’s life is there such a wide difference in developmental growth between each child with the exception of infancy.

For parents tweens can be unpredictable and moody. One moment they are the shy kind child you know and love, the next they have attitude. Perhaps the following quote from a younger sibling regarding his tween’s sister seemingly instantaneous mood changes: “Look Mom, she’s like the Hulk!”

Tweens are more mature and trustworthy than children. Parent’s no longer feel they need to watch their every move. Intermittent monitoring of activities is possible. You no longer need to stay at the activity or birthday party (given there is sufficient supervision of course) you can actually drop off and run errands in between. At this point forming car pools becomes essential in not only keeping up with all their activities, but freeing up some of your time. Alone time is actually now possible!

While some of the benefits of tweenhood are their newfound autonomy, there are also many benefits during together time. You can now spend quality time engaging in activities you both enjoy. Whether it is watching a movie, going to a show, baking a cake or creating a craft, tweenhood is often synonymous with imagination and innovation. They are still at an age where they are willing to learn, they don’t yet believe they know better, well not about everything at least!

Parenting a tween is a magical time. As Mother Nature does her work, you watch your child grow from a kid to a teen, right before your eyes! It really is a tween’s life. As we take this journey together I look forward to your own experiences and insight!

Best,

Jennifer


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