Guiding Your School Age Kids To Become Teens You Can Still Parent

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 11.39.40 PMOnce kids get to school age, they seem like they are on cruise control. They are independent, they can entertain themselves, they feed themselves, they have friends, and most importantly, they wipe their own bottoms. It seems like that for many of the kids when I talk to them and their parents at the well visits, after the toddler/preschool age, and before the teen years. However, this is a crucial time when parents can coach them to lay a strong foundation for the teenage years, to help their children establish healthy habits and strong life and relationship skills. While awkward conversations may not seem necessary at this naive age, early and frequent chats about consent, stranger danger, and safety can lead to better communication between parents teens. There may not be much drama at this age, but keep these few tips in mind to prevent drama later.

  • Normalize chores. Asking your kids to take out the trash at 13 is much less difficult when they have been helping you wipe tables, set the table, take out clothes from the laundry machine and dry for the last 6-7 years. Chores help kids learn to take responsibility and be proud of their hard work. Sometimes, harder tasks might require more than one person, and nothing warms my heart more than watching my kids work together on a task (at 2yo and 5yo, the hardest chore so far was moving a heavy box of diapers together to another room – oh ), teamwork! Set realistic expectations and praise your kids for their accomplishments. These skills can also translate outside the home, such as setting a strong work ethic for excelling at a job later as a teen and cleaning up after their picnic table at a local park and throwing away their trash so that the next family can have a good time too!
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Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain

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  • Normalize nosy parenting. Get your kids used to your questions. Who are your friends? What games did you play? What did your friends talk about at lunch today? Get your kids used to using the computer, iPads, and TVs in a common room, so you can keep an eye on how much time they are spending on it, what websites they are browsing, and what games they are playing. Get your kids used to you checking their phones, and it won’t be so much of a fight when they become a teen. Teach them why you are checking, and teach them how to stay safe online (more on this in a separate post later). Even if your kid is “good” (to quote the description from real parents), keep in mind other kids too. You might find a conversation between your child and their friend who seems depressed or is getting bullied but too afraid to tell their own parents. It takes a village and if we all watched our kids’ phones, the whole village’s kids would be safer. IMHO. 🙂 

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  • Normalize talks about kindness, bullying, peer pressure, consent, stranger danger. Clearly there is not enough kindness in our diverse world. Until there is no more hate or meanness, keep talking to your kids about being kind in person and online. Ask your kids if anyone is mean to them or if they are mean to anyone. Review scenarios where someone might be mean to them and talk about their responses, or what happens when a classmate gets bullied. Discuss scenarios of strangers trying to talk to them or getting messaged by a stranger on a video game or on the phone. Walk them through puberty and the changes their bodies will go through. While schools do cover some of these topics, kids need to know that these issues are important to their parents and that they can go to their parents if they have questions about anything. Basically, just normalize talking to each other, face to face, without phones, TVs, iPads, kindles in between.
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Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting

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  • Normalize unstructured (obviously screen-free) time. While school age kids have many options of activities, if their parents can afford them, keep in mind that kids need time to create, run around, and make up games. Balance the soccer games, dance practices, and trumpet lessons or cub scout meetings with going to a park to play or wandering through a local park. When parents play with their kids and let the kids lead, it also leads to better communication and connection between kids and parents. Play time helps kids learn to resolve conflicts and boredom and increases their readiness to learn in school. Kids can use play time and their imagination to cope with a bad day a school and get them ready to face the next day, which builds up their resilience.  So the next time a kid says that recess is their favorite part of the day, don’t dismiss them. Fight like a fierce mama or papa bear for them to keep recess as part of their school day, as that positive association between play and school can improve their academic performance in later years.
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Raising Your Spirited Child, Third Edition

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Well, seems like there’s actually a lot that goes one in those school age years, a lot of background work to put into the child to help them grow into a strong, confident, and kind teen.  If you want more information, check out these highly recommended books above to help guide you. Also, check out the CDC’s positive parenting guide here, for kids 6-8 years old and kids 9-11 years old. Parenting is not easy. It takes a village, and sometimes that village is in the form of printed words.

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