by Bec Cavalôt

How to stay emotionally connected to your tween son

It feels like only a few weeks ago that my 10-year-old son was happily hugging me goodbye at the school gate. Even saying, “I love you” in front of his friends.

Now it’s say goodbye at the corner, eye rolls and “you’re so embarrassing mum”.

It’s been a tough year for everyone, but I think the real reason he’s suddenly so mum-adverse is the tween transition.

Unfortunately, I can’t force the clock hands back. So, I’m trying to find new ways to emotionally connect with my tweenage son.

Here are few tips that work for us. Well, sometimes…

Let the little things go

You’re fighting to hold on to your little boy while trying to let him work stuff out for himself. He’s stuck between still needing you and a newfound need for independence. It’s a time of conflict and struggle for both you and your son. Don’t go into battle over the small stuff. It’s not easy, but try to ignore his messy bedroom or bad table manners. Take a breath. Acknowledge that you’re annoyed. Then let it go.

And if it is ‘big stuff’ – something you need to address with your son – try to wait for the storm to pass. Telling your son he’s wrong or his behaviour is unacceptable in the moment (when you’re feeling hurt or angry and he’s still all guns blazing) will just add fuel to the fire.

Respect his boundaries

Suddenly the bedroom door is shut. All the time. He’s mortified if he sees you only half-dressed. He’s embarrassed by your too-loud cheers from the sidelines. His new ‘boundaries’ might seem silly or unimportant to you but respecting them when you can – by knocking, putting on your robe or toning down the whooping – shows your son that you respect his space and need for privacy.

Be your son’s sounding board

When your son does come to you for a chat, listen more than you talk. A lot more. Let your son know you’re happy he wants to talk to you. Give him your full attention, try to listen without judgment and validate his emotions – even if you completely disagree. Showing respect for his opinions and feelings will mean he’s likely to share them with you more often.

Be curious about things he loves

When you show genuine interest in the things and people your son is passionate about, it tells him he’s important to you. Though you may have little interest in Minecraft or the AFL draft pick, try and listen. Just remember not to undo all your hard work by overstepping those boundaries we talked about earlier.

Hero him for the great stuff he does

When you’re in the middle of the tween tornado of hurt and hormones, it can feel like the negative far outweighs the positive. And that’s exhausting for everyone. So recognise, and vocalise, your son’s hero moments as often as you can. This can be as simple as thanking him for being kind to his little brother, praising his efforts at school or telling him how much you love watching him play his favourite sport.  

Some days you’ll try all of the above. And nothing will work. So don’t forget to be compassionate to yourself too. You can’t connect with your son from a place of kindness and care if you’re not being kind and caring to yourself. Give yourself love. Give your son love. Give him space. And trust he’ll come back


Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Bec Cavalôt is a Melbourne-based writer, and mum of two beautiful, boisterous boys. You can find her at This article is about


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