On Friday evenings, my husband and I usually have a date night at home. We put the children to bed, open a bottle of wine, talk about our week, and watch a movie. This may sound simple or boring, but this is what we do. With four children, all two years apart in age, we are exhausted at the end of the week, and this is what makes us happy.
Lately, our date nights at home have been cut short. My oldest son has basketball games on Friday nights, so we do not get home until after 8 p.m. My son takes a quick shower, and we keep the bedtime routine short and sweet so my husband and I can enjoy what’s left of the Friday night together. Although my son usually goes to bed without any objection, he has been wide-eyed and ready for conversation the last few Friday nights.
Tonight, my son and I were talking about some serious topics in his bedroom after the game. My husband walked in to say goodnight to our son, and said, “Why are you two still talking? It’s Friday night, and we were going to watch a movie.”
“I’ll be down in a few minutes,” I responded.
“When our 12-year-old son needs to talk,” I said looking at my husband almost 20 minutes later, “we have to take time to listen, even when we planned to watch a movie.” I gave him a quick summary of the conversation with my son, and his eyes widened. He immediately understood and nodded in agreement. Although I long for more quality time with my husband, I also realize the importance of communication with my preteen son.
If there is one thing I‘ve learned about parenting a preteen son, it is this: When your son wants to talk—even if it’s after normal bedtime on Friday night—you drop everything and listen to him talk. The preteen years are unpredictable, prickly years, and opportunities for deep conversation can be few and far between. Listen—really listen—when your child opens up to you. My son does not want to talk for long periods of time. In fact, he loves to joke about my friends and me being too “chatty.” However, when my son does talk, he SPILLS the beans. It’s amazing.
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I thank God every day that my preteen son talks to me and confides in me. Every day, I wonder if tomorrow will be the day he stops sharing his feelings with me. I try to push those thoughts aside and be grateful for every conversation we have. I am humbled and blessed every time he shares a nugget of information with me.
We need to listen to our kids when they talk to us, especially during those preteen years. It may not be the best timing. It may interfere with a conversation or something else we are doing. But, when possible, make the time to listen when your preteen child wants to talk. Do not take for granted the times your child reaches out to you.
When our children sense we are busy or disinterested, they can be reluctant to initiate conversation the next time. When you are unable to give your child your full attention, explain this to him clearly and find a time when you can give him your undivided attention. It is so important that our children feel heard and understood by those they love and trust, especially during the preteen years.