3 Ways to Get the Down Low on Your Pre-Teen’s Life

We all want to know what is going on in our children’s lives … what their friends are really like, what they are thinking about, what they have questions about, what is at the forefront of their thoughts and inside the depths of their hearts. But as they transition from early childhood years, where they brought every concern and thought straight to your ears, to the early nightmare years {pre-teens}, where suddenly you begin to get the dreaded one-word responses and your life becomes one long quest for the best way to ask an open-ended question, that river of information begins to shrink down to a babbling brook or maybe just an oversized rain puddle.

As my oldest has grown into the ten-and-a-half-year-old he currently is, I have had to come up with new and innovative ways of finding a window into his world. It has been my experience that direct, intentional questions rarely get the results I’m looking for, so I have had to add a few new tactics to my arsenal. Today I’ve got my top 3 most effective ways of finding out what is going on in my pre-teen’s life ::

{1} Take your child and his friends out to lunch.

This small gesture has produced a wealth of fun little tid-bits I would never have discovered otherwise. I have learned who has and has not had “a girlfriend.” I have learned what sort of transgressions are unacceptable to 10-year-old boys and who is BFFs and who broke up. I have learned what they think they understand about current events and what they consider important enough to discuss.

The key to this one is to become invisible. Sit at the table with them and just listen. Occasionally interject a small question to redirect if you want a little more information about something, but even that can be risky.

I recently took my son and a friend of his out for burgers and learned some very interesting things about the upcoming election. I could barely contain my laughter. {Note :: Don’t laugh during lunch. It blows your cover.}

{2} Be the carpool mom.

Drive your child and his friends everywhere. Offer your chauffeur services at every opportunity and then turn down the music, turn on your ears, and just wait. The confessions start pouring out of them. I’m starting to realize that a lot of these tips involve eavesdropping, but really, they are knowingly spilling their guts in front of you; they just don’t realize you are listening, so I don’t see it as any sort of violation. Besides, from my lawyer side, information is not considered confidential if it’s shared in the presence of a third party.

{3} Walk your child to school.

This is a big one, and it doesn’t involve eavesdropping. For some reason, when a child is focused on a physical activity {here, walking} and has no other distractions available {books, radio, television}, you may find you have a regular Chatty Cathy. This is one time that I find I can actually ask a direct question or two and get a real answer. I don’t know why that is; it’s just the magic of the walk, I guess. If walking your child to/from school is not an option, just walk anywhere … to the corner store, to the ice cream shop, to a friend’s house. I realize this seems like a horrifying thought in a city where everyone hops in their car to go a mere block or two {I get it, Houston’s hot!}, but this little tool comes with a big payoff.  One caveat {which may only be true for my kids} — In the child’s mind, the walk has to have a purpose other than just the chatting. The chatting has to be incidental to the walk and unexpected. Otherwise, I get big ol’ complaints and grumbles, and it defeats the whole purpose.

What ways have you found to get a peek into the world of your pre-teen?

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Jennifer grew up in Houston before heading to Austin for seven years to attend the University of Texas as a history and government major and continuing at UT for law school. An attorney by day, in the evening she trades high heels and ambition for wet kisses and warm hugs from her three children - Kieran {Dec 2005}, Sawyer {Jan 2011}, and Birdie {Sept 2014}. Her many vices include an intense passion for all things Bravo and her plan for the future is "more cowbell." You can find her at the duck pond, the zoo, on Instagram @jen.e.underwood and blogging at Treading Water in the Kiddie Pool {www.treadingwaterinthekiddiepool.com}.


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