It was said in a whisper in the hallway by my stepdaughter who was mortified to have to ask. A total stranger who came into her life shortly before these changes appeared.
These are the things you aren’t taught about when you become a stepmom or mom. There is no manual that tells you how to approach different communication styles or preferences.
Teens and tweens endure so many awkward changes they don’t feel comfortable communicating out loud. Add to that having to tell someone who is not your mom. And who isn’t communicating in the way you need.
From the first day I came into the girls’ lives, I had to work hard to keep the lines of communication open. No topic shocked me or would be “too much” as they worried about.
3 Ways to Communicate with Tweens
I found three ways to communicate with the girls when my way just wouldn’t work.
1. Sticky Notes
We created a spot for sticky notes. The girls can leave me a note without having to tell me face to face. I can read what is happening or why they are upset. It gives me time to process my thoughts and feelings and was in a way the girls are comfortable sharing. Then we talk about it together and work on a solution or understanding.
2. Allow time to decompress
I let the girls have 10 to 20 minutes when they come home to decompress. They can go to their room, read a book, or watch a show. This gives them time to work out any feelings they were having from school or being with their mom. Then we have a clean slate to start our time together. This also gives them the space to write on a sticky note if needed. Maybe to let out something that was bothering them or give me a heads up about something.
I always try to put myself in their place. How difficult it would be to have two homes and little consistency between the homes. As an adult, it is hard to not have consistency week to week. How can I expect children to handle that well? By giving them the understanding and vulnerability that I get how tough it is. I try to make the connection that it’s always unconditional love with me.
3. Create a judgment-free zone in your home
We will accept everyone just as they come in the door.
- Frustrated about how the day went and need time alone. That works! I will bring your snack to your room and make sure to check in with you in a while.
- Upset because you miss your mom and really need her. Completely understand. I’ll text her and see if she is able to talk to you right now.
- Excited about a test and grade in a class. Awesome! I can’t wait to hear all about it.
This was the game-changer in my relationship with my girls. They finally were able to see me as a partner in their life. I was here to guide them, love them, and support them in whatever way they needed me. This took me looking hard at myself and remembering how I felt as a tween and teenager. Communication is tough. And definitely with moms at that age. They think they know best and we disagree.
One daughter is blunter and gives the full details. The other keeps everything more surface-level and abstract. Learning the preferred communication style of each girl took time and many mistakes by me. We finally found our groove after the tampon talk and devised a strategy to communicate in their preferred way. A sticky note on my purse or a quick text message.
Communicating with tweens is tough at times but worth the effort as you see the relationship flourish. And now to tackle how to communicate with my four and two-year-olds. Thankfully I have a little time to work on that!