Parenting Through That Awkward Pause


Brad Mathias shares tips for parents to use during their pre-teen's awkward phase.

I hate awkward pauses. I change the channel sometimes during a romantic comedy, right when the good guy or lady gets caught doing something totally innocent that appears to be totally awful. AAArrghh. I HATE that feeling. It's similar to those moments when the elephant in the room is overtly discussed, and that sick to your stomach, pause in the conversation, moment of time, when I realize that I just completely missed a critical social cue from my spouse… and put my entire foot in my mouth.

Life is full of awkward pauses, times when we realize that if we continue forward, we will undoubtedly reduce our credibility.  And going backward isn’t an option. The option to wait… to pause, it’s all we have. Awkward.

Parenting is a lot like that with pre-teens. You can’t go backward, not an option. Moving forward “as is” isn’t really a good idea, so we have to pause. We have to wait for something vital inside of them to change, to grow. And for many parents, that pause is too difficult to endure. We feel the need to do something, anything to catalyze their transformation from child to adult.

My encouragement to you dear pre-teen parent is to let the awkwardness be.

Yes, let the pause grow in tension and wait. Our kids need to have the space to be awkward. Their personalities, values and beliefs will grow and expand and condense as they age, just like those size 11 shoes and braces they endure. School, peers and society all pressure us to move, to keep ourselves in action. "Don’t stop, don’t rest, don’t wait, just act." But, what if we didn’t give in to that pressure to keep our pre-teens in motion?

What if we let them take some time to consider, to reflect and to grow? What if we didn’t push for them to be on the sixth grade soccer team, or travelling cheer squad? What if we let them transition from the old to the new and in doing so, we gave them permission to explore, to discover?

What if we allowed them an awkward pause before they jumped into the frenzy of organized clubs and junior high academic awards? I think it would be awesome. I hope you will give it a try. Pre-teens are being crushed by an average of 80 hours of media a week. They juggle intense school work and evolving peer pressure, adapting often at school (but not at home) to assume an identity that’s premature and forced.

Sometimes, being awkward and unsure is a good thing. It gives time for the “real” them to emerge, grow and strengthen. Parents can be an amazing support to an awkward pre-teen if they show the patience and foresight to help gently nudge their pre-teens into the areas of life that truly interest them. But if we blow right through these years, checking off our lists and making sure "our" kids set the bar for others to follow… we may deeply regret the decision to push through instead of backing off.

Those are just a few thoughts to consider. My hope is to help other parents. And every reader should know that I didn’t get this issue right very often. So, God taught me to pause and to learn from my mistakes

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