Let Her Grow

Your role as a parent changes now that your kid is in primary school. DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON shows you how to handle your independent tween better.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Understand that she still needs you She is in primary school, very independent, and has lots of friends, but she still needs you as much as she did when she was younger.

You make her feel special, she learns about relationships from you, and she is able to talk to you about her concerns. You continue to make an important contribution to her upbringing.

Stay involved Your tween still wants you to be a part of her life, so don’t let yourself to move into the shadows. You are no different from every other parent whose parenting confidence starts to wobble as she watches her little one grow up.

But stay involved with her, anyway, as much as you can. Don’t become a bystander.

Be yourself You don’t need to be a super-funny, or a super-athletic, or superwhatever type of parent. Your child loves you for who are you; she doesn’t want you to be someone else. 

So, if you’d rather chat with her than, say, ride together, then do it. It’s the time that you share together with her that matters, not what you actually do together.

Encourage her new activities What fascinated your child when she was younger might seem totally uninteresting to her now. That’s why she would rather practise her musical instrument than, say, play a board game with you.

Go with the flow, acknowledge that she is expressing her individuality, and show enthusiasm for her new interests.

Be less critical Your primary schooler is probably less compliant than she was before. Perhaps she huffs and puffs when you tell her to do her homework or moans when you ask her to tidy her room.

Resist the temptation to criticise her for this; instead, offer to show her how to cope with these tasks if she thinks she can’t manage on her own.

Be more supportive Your tween has the same psychological needs as she had when she was younger, but she  meets these needs differently now that she is older.

She wants to make more decisions herself about her clothes, activities and friends, and she needs you to guide and support her with these choices.

Accept that she is growing up Change is a continuous part of your child’s life. Even though you might want her to stay exactly as she is, she won’t. So don’t fight her growth and development, and don’t react against it.

Be prepared to adapt your parenting to her age. What worked with her a few years ago may not be as effective now.

Be open Tell her that you know she is growing up but that you still want to hear all her news and all her stories about school and friends, and that you still want her to share her concerns with you.

Don’t feel awkward about saying this to her – she will be delighted to hear you still care.

Spend more time with her Make an effort to spend more time every day with her, perhaps playing a game, watching a television programme, or just talking.

This helps you both keep in touch and keeps your relationship strong. She thrives with your attention, and she still enjoys hanging out with you even though she is older.

Respect her privacy Your kid has a right to privacy when getting dressed, washing, or chatting with her friends. Explain to your child that you understand and respect this, adding that, for example, you won’t barge into her room unannounced and you won’t interrupt her conversations with her pals. 

Even though you might want her to stay exactly as she is, she won’ t. So don’ t fight her growth and development, and don’ t react against it.