Important Questions on the Minds of Preteens

Am I normal?
Do I fit in? Should I fit in?
Why do I feel the way I do?
When do I have to start worrying about taxes?

These are some of the “Important Questions on the Minds of Preteens” addressed by Rob Lehman, MD, and Julie Metzger, RN, MN, at Preteen Alliance luncheons held in October and November.

Both luncheons were extremely popular, with long waiting lists. Rob and Julie, who run a series of workshops for preteens and parents at both Seattle Children’s Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, shared insights into how preteens think.

In their talks, Julie and Rob stressed that parents should aim to reassure their preteens that the changes they are going through are normal, and offered insights about preteens, as well as suggestions for helping them through these important years.

Highlights included:

  • If it’s hard to have a face-to-face conversation with a preteen – and some preteens shy away from that — try side-by-side. The car works well for this.
  • When talking through important issues such as puberty and relationships, have 200 one-minute conversations, rather than one 200-minute conversation. Long, one-time discussions may be less effective than short in-the-moment conversations when opportunities naturally arise.
  • In order to connect with your preteen, try extending your comfort zone. One example – if your preteen refuses to learn to ski, perhaps you both could learn to snowboard.
  • Rather than “fix” their problems for them, let preteens experience real-life consequences — such as forgetting their lunch or missing the bus — to help them build life-long coping skills.
  • Preteens think about sex, even if they’re not talking about it.
  • Preteens really are listening to you, even if they don’t show it, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the one talking all the time. They’d like to know that you can listen, too.
  • Children at this age continue to need physical affection from their parents. A hug is not out of bounds.
  • It’s helpful if parents foster their preteens’ relationships with a few other close and trusted adults.

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