Leap in Tween Things…

Where’d You Grow Wednesday? February 29, 2012

This past week I have grown to accept the fact… I am the parent of tweens.

Technically, I have been the parent of a tween for over two years, but this week it really hit me about what phase of life I am attempting to parent. It actually took two separate trips to the junior high to convince me of this.

My first visit was as an attendee for the informational meeting for parents of incoming seventh graders. Our oldest is a sixth grader at the elementary school, and he is slotted to start his junior high experience next year. Nothing makes enrolling a kid in junior high more tangible than the start of the spring registration process.

I suppose I should have been more prepared for the feelings of nostalgia and anxiety that walked with me into that school. As I got out of my car, I was somewhere between acceptance and denial that I am actually old enough to have birthed a junior-high-aged kid. I can only imagine how much more heightened those emotions would be if our kids were attending the same junior high I did as a kid.  I think it is a blessing that this junior high is new…for all of us.

So it’s happening, and tween stuff can no longer be ignored.

Our older two kids are 9.5 and nearly 12. They both fall firmly into the category, and I thus am reluctantly committed to accepting my role as the mother of these precious tweens.

That means I need to know how long it’s going to take for me to get to the junior high.  That means that questions about puberty are developmentally appropriate and necessary. That means that there are a whole host of things I will struggle to discover about my own kids because they too are caught…in between.

That’s why I went back to the junior high again last night. I pushed through the freezing rain and predicted hazardous roads to attend a community event called: Not My Kid: A Community Conversation on Youth Suicide.

I was just as reluctant to go as I am about admitting we have tweens in our house, but I’ve made a decision to take charge of the things I can, and pray for graceful acceptance of all those things that are out of my hands.

I am so glad I went.

Like most people, I avoid thinking about mortality as much as I can. I shudder at the idea that anything bad could ever happen to our kids, and it is too overwhelming to consider that they would ever feel bad enough to do anything harmful to themselves.

I needed to hear what was shared last night, and I urge all parents to work through their own discomfort to understand our role in protecting all kids from themselves.

There were a lot of interesting stats given during the presentation:

Nationally:

  • Every 15 minutes, someone commits suicide
  • Over the past 5 years, there has been a 320% increase in the suicide rate of girls ages 10-14

In Minnesota:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-34 year olds
  • 1 in 8 teens is depressed

In Washington County:

  • 12% of sixth graders have had suicidal thoughts
  • 15% of ninth graders have had suicidal thoughts (100 9th graders have tried)

These are alarming statistics, but simply pretending they are not there will not make them go away.

We have a responsibility as parents, and community members, to care for the safe growth of children. Every child deserves a chance to move through the tween and teen years with loving support and care.

Factors that are known to decrease the risks of suicide for youth:

  • If they have contact with at least one caring adult
  • When they feel a sense of connection (activities, teams, etc.)
  • When they have positive self-esteem accompanied by good coping skills
  •  If they have access to care for emotional/ physical problems

So, what does that do to my approach as a parent?

I came home from the event and started a dialogue with our oldest.  He knew where I had gone, and he wanted to know what I had learned. I was comforted knowing that open communication with tweens is encouraged. After the presentation, I was armed with the information to talk with him about the signs he can look for in either himself, or his friends.

I asked him, “If you are with a friend and he breaks his arm, would you try to fix it?”

He laughed at how ridiculous that decision would be.

“It’s the same with a depressed person,” I told him. “There is a very real thing going on in that person’s brain that requires professional, and sometimes medical attention.”

This is what it is to be the parent of a tween.

I have to come to terms with my own feelings and emotions before I can work through things with our kids. The suggestions of the presenter for talking about youth suicide apply to how I can navigate all parts of this tween phase.

  • Deal with my own reactions and emotions first
  • Stay away from gossip and overdramatizing… stick to the facts
  • Remain nonjudgmental about any information my kids share with me (including their darkest emotions)
  • Ask them to Tell Me More and listen intently

Everyone always told me that parenting got harder. I can see that now.  My tweens are already much more independent, but it is precisely because of that independence that parenting them can become difficult.

I am up for the challenge, and I will leap in…ready or not.

*******There is much more information about preventing youth suicide, including a short video created by last night’s presenter, that can be found on the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide website.***********

To learn more about what it takes to choose to grow, or to see what CTG project Meagan is working on, you can visit her website at www.meaganfrank.com.

Happy Growing!!

copyright 2012  Choosing to Grow                                       Meagan Frank

One thought on “Leap in Tween Things…

  1. This is a great story, Meagan; and I’m up for the challenge too.
    Our community is still dealing with the suicide of a young 15-year old AAA hockey player, Daron Richardson (the daughter of the Luke Richardson who is AC of NHL Ottawa Senators team). DIFD (Do it For Daron) is a huge awareness program, now with national attention, focused on youth mental health care and research. The stigma is lifting … finally
    http://www.doitfordaron.com/#
    Those purple hearts are on the jerseys and helmets of kids and adults playing all over Ottawa.

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