Special Time Helps a Preteen Open Up


By Sarah Charlton

We had just returned from a big family wedding in another part of the country and even though it had been a really good trip, we hadn’t had a lot of connection time to ourselves. We were feeling tired, so getting my son off to school the following morning had been fraught with irritability on both sides. He kept saying, “Why are you so horrible to me” when I held my ground and insisted he go to school instead of taking the day off.  I was in no mood to listen and just needed him to leave the house so I could get on with all that I had to do in my day.

While he was out I managed to get some good listening time and shared my feelings about how much I missed being able to connect with my extended family on a regular basis and my frustrations at the difficulty getting my preteen son out the door that morning. It really helps that I can take all my fears about the approaching teen years to my listening partners.

I was able to cry and feel warmly listened to while I expressed my feelings.

Reaching Out

preteen-special-timeWhen my son returned from school, I offered him half an hour of Special Time which he was happy to accept.  He wrapped himself in a very furry, warm winter coat of mine, despite it being a warm sunny day, and took us into the garden.

He mainly wanted to chat and be snuggled and for me to come and bounce on the trampoline with him.  We did this for a while and then laid on the trampoline in the warm sun.  He talked to me about mobile phones and iPod’s.  So far his Dad and I have resisted our son having access to very much technology but his desire for them is increasing now that he is at secondary school and among the few children who do not have these things.

I asked him to tell me all the reasons why he would really love to have these and listened to him with warmth and enthusiasm, being delighted in his ideas and explanations about how they would work for him.

Special Time Clears the Way

In adopting this approach, I noticed that he began to open up and talk to me much more freely about how it was for him at school and what it was like not to have technology like the other kids. I was able to respond to him without my agendas getting in the way, like they would outside of Special Time, so he could open up and talk more freely.  

I heard that he has a really sensible and clear understanding of the uses and potential pitfalls of technology, and I saw how important it is for him to fit in with his peers at school.  I didn’t have to agree to a phone or iPod but it helped him just to know he was being really heard.

This half hour of time really warmed up our relationship again, he willingly came and washed up the pots later when I asked him and went off to school promptly and enthusiastically the next morning.

I’ll definitely try to bring the attitude of listening that I had during Special Time into more of our conversations.  Special Time is a fantastic tool, that works like a dream to get our relationship back on track when we have become disconnected.

From the Hand in Hand Toolbox:

Read more stories about how Special Time increases the parent-child bond in How Special Time Makes Children Content and A Dose of Special Time in the Morning

Find out how you can Help Your Angry Preteen

Watch how Special Time brings children closer, and how to set it up in these videos and checklist

Sarah Charlton, Hand in Hand Instructor, UK
Sarah Charlton, Hand in Hand Instructor, UK

Certified Hand in Hand Instructor Sarah Charlton is based in the UK and holds classes in Sussex and London. Sarah runs classes for parents in groups and individuals in-person and online.

Her next class is a Starter Class for Parents of Preteens. Develop a closer connection with your preteen that will guide you through the teen years. Find details of the class here.

You can also Contact Sarah on Facebook

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