Like many Circle of Moms members, Amy walks a fine line between helping her tween daughter become more independent and wanting to monitor her every move. Another member, Diane, frets that her daughter, who she trusts to know right from wrong, will be led astray by friends.
Amy and Diane's feelings underscore the concerns of many Circle of Moms members who are at this stage with their kids. The consensus in our communities is that while our kids need to start handling more on their own, it's not easy for moms to let them do so. Here, our moms share strategies for encouraging kids to spread the wings of independence, and for reining in the worrying.
1. Open Communication
One of ways to give your child more independence is to assure her that though you are giving her a longer leash, you are still there for her whenever she needs you, say Circle of Moms members Amy and Melinda M. Amy's 10-year-old daughter seems caught between wanting to be grown up and still needing her mom. Amy says she's learning that the best thing she can do for her daughter is to let her know that she is available when she wants to talk, "not just when I want her to talk.”
Melinda echos this sentiment. “Have a heart to heart chat, more of a friend chat than a mother and daughter chat. Just say words like, ‘You can talk to me like I am one of your friends,’ and ‘You can tell me anything at all.’ But never judge her, just advise her and reassure her you are always there if she wants someone to talk to. I did this with my daughter and she opened up but what she told me was in complete confidence.”
Annette A. uses letters to explain “exactly what [it] looks like to be mature and responsible." She writes to her girls to tell them how she's feeling, and encourages them to write back, and reports that these exchanges are helping them navigate this tumultuous phase.
2. Clear Boundaries
To start your preteen on the path to responsibility and independence, many Circle of Moms members suggest being very upfront about which privileges and freedoms will be given, and about the consequences of breaking the rules. “My 10-year-old daughter wants to do and try everything,” says Bridget R. “I have to set boundaries as to what she can do and I explain to her why she can’t do something if I do not feel she is ready. . . .Children need boundaries. Mothers are to guide their children and help them to make better choices. At nine years old you are not old enough to know what is best for you."
3. Clear Consequences
Don't be afraid to revoke privileges when your child abuses the freedoms you give her, says Circle of Moms member Janis S. "Last month what seemed to work was we took her phone away—as they live to text with their friends. We told her we would give it back to her as soon as we saw improvement in her attitude around us all." At first, reports Janis, her daughter didn't seem to be too upset at losing her phone, but her attitude did improve, and quickly: within two days she and her husband gave the phone back. Janis's conclusion? "I really think kids want us to define clear boundaries with them."
It’s important to keep in mind that this letting go process is not easy on either you or your tween, says Lisa F., who has a "very independent" 10-year-old. Allowing your child to have increased freedoms also means stretching your own limits. As Lisa explains, “I believe that a child knows what they can do, so you have to let her try. It might be hard for you to let go, but in the long run she will thank you for it [and] you will find that you will have a better relationship with her.”
It may also be difficult for your tween, who may want to be more grown up but is afraid. Julie S. says the key is to inspiring responsible behavior in your tween is to downplay your own worrying. "The thing with us mothers is we are born worriers and think every man and his dog are out to get our precious kids. We need to learn to relax a little and we need to show them we can be independent too. I let my kids go out and yes, I worried while they were gone, but they need to have some independence so they can grow and learn to be a bit more street savvy. Confining them doesn’t do them any favors in the long run. If we learn to guide our kids rather than smother them they will grow up to be well balanced, good kids."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.