At therapy last week, the other half of my session was spent on how to parent my pre-preteen. Sophie will be Ten next week (!), and the past couple of months have been challenging.
She's more hormonal, more sensitive--and she is a sensitive soul already, just like her mother--and more quarrelsome with her little brother.
I haven't had a clue how to parent her.
Julie said during my first session that it's not a coincidence that a good deal of my emotional crises started when I was twelve, and I will have a twelve year old daughter in two years. I'm ready to work on those previously boxed up issues, because I know it's what's best for my child.
And I really, really want to raise healthy, happy kids.
Julie has two daughters--one in high school, one in college. She is not only a great therapist, but she's been there. We talked about how to discuss with the kids when they are fighting... "oh gosh, that is some angry language. can you tell me what's going on?" instead of "Sophie, stop call Luke disgusting!" And then talking with them and determining TOGETHER what's at the root of the issue (they're tired, they're feelings are hurt, they're hungry, they need attention from mom and dad), and letting them NAME their emotions.
Mostly, it's about me being more patient, and being a teacher of how to recognize their feelings.
The best thing she suggested was a Mommy/Daughter Journal. Sophie had a really hard Saturday night. She gets depressed easily, and when she feels like that she often says she "hates being sensitive." We talked and talked. She wasn't coming out of it, but was just more frustrated and sad. I was out of ideas, so I mentioned the journal idea. She said okay.
So we found a beautiful journal my friend Debra gave me as a birthday present, and I wrote a letter to Sophie. I put it in her room, and then she wrote me back, and put it on my bedside table. We've both written to each other several times, each time leaving it in the other's "special place" after we're finished writing.
Sunday morning she wrote "mommy, I know you'll probably say no, but can we please, please, PLEASE make cookies this morning?" Baking isn't something she asks to do, so I wasn't sure why this came up, other than it was a rainy day and seemed like a good idea. Or else she just wanted homemade cookies for breakfast. Anyway, we did it together. She read the recipe, she measured, she used the mixer, she dropped the cookies on the baking sheet, she cleaned up, she gave cookies to Daddy and Luke. I facilitated, but she did the work.
Later she wrote to me in our journal that she loved the time we spent together, and loves the journal, and loves me, and I'm the best mom in the world.
I don't know who's happier about our journal--me or her. It's already a huge blessing and a connection between us.
On Saturday during our talk, I also said that sometimes, when we are sensitive people and we're sad, it's better to get out of our heads and into our bodies. I told her that's why I run and go to the gym. I feel a release of endorphins--another brain chemical like those pre-teen hormones she's experiencing--and they help ease the depression. I asked if she'd like to try doing yoga together. At first she was hesitant, but then said she'd try. She loves to walk outside, which we often do when it's nice out. But we don't have a regular routine. I said we could set a goal of doing yoga for a month (like, 12 times in 30 days) and if we meet our goal, we could do a mommy/daughter activity. She loved that idea. So I found a yoga for teens DVD on Amazon that will be here on Tuesday.
Julie reassured me during my session that parents who try and who care and who recognize they don't know it all and look for answers when there are problems, are the parents that have well adjusted kids.
I sure hope she's right.