Mama Drama: Tween Tension
Dear Mama Drama:
My twelve-year-old son and I have a very close relationship. He has always been able to talk with me easily and we enjoy spending time together. In public he has always liked to walk with me and usually stands near me in a group.
Recently I have noticed him pulling away from me when he is around his friends. He includes me in conversation less, walks ahead of me rather than with me and seems to intentionally stand as far away from me as he can in a group. I’m confused by his behavior and am not sure how to approach him about it. We haven’t had any arguments or difficulties, so this change feels concerning.
The other odd part of it all is that he continues to be very loving and cuddly with me at home.
Send your Mama Drama questions to Lisa@milehighmamas.com
It’s wonderful that you and your son have such a close and open relationship. This will be very helpful for you in navigating his changing needs and behaviors as he travels through these tween and teen years.
Separating from our parents and creating our individual identity is an essential part of growing up. Unfortunately, kids don’t know this – and parents often wish it wouldn’t happen – so they don’t always know how to handle it when these feelings arise. It sounds like your son is handling his desire to seek independence in a subtle yet respectful way. You are fortunate as tweens and teens often use anger and rebellion to create the distance they seek.
Begin by examining how this feels for you and reflecting on how you felt and behaved when seeking independence from your parents. This perspective will be helpful when talking with your son and handling this new phase in your relationship.
Let him know that you have noticed some changes in his behavior, note a few specifics, and explain that you think it is connected to him wanting more independence. Discuss that this is a normal part of development and that you’d like to talk about how you can support him through it. He may be aware of the ways he has been acting differently or he may not. Give him a chance to talk about his perspective. You may then want to share some of your recollections about your tween years, both things you felt worked well and things you wished had happened differently.
Your son will want varying degrees of independence in different situations, as you have already noticed. Make a plan to be open with each other about what you both expect or want in various situations. Be prepared to be flexible and negotiate as there will times when he wants more independence that your are ready to give. Keep talking, stay in touch with your feelings, and try to act and make decisions out of knowledge and trust rather than fear. Communication will be key in making this transition as smooth as possible
After giving ourselves wholly to our children at birth, the ebb and flow of dependence and independence can be challenging to negotiate. I believe that each small step of independence our kids take requires a conscious bit of letting go from us as parents. If we acknowledge that, for them and us, there is less angst and more acceptance as we move through this dance of parenting. And the bonus is that with each little letting go of them, we are offered a little more of ourselves back again.
Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to Lisa@milehighmamas.com, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.