The formal operational stage begins as your child reaches her 11th birthday. She begins to think creatively and in an abstract manner, and she can use deductive reasoning to solve academic and everyday difficulties. While it is during these years that the drama queen and the mini-manipulator tend to emerge, you are still a few years away from full-blown teenage-hood. Take advantage of these years to indulge in some one-on-one time, and you may just make it through the upcoming teen years with your sanity intact.
Teach your preteen the value that comes from giving back to society by spending some time volunteering in your community. Not only does such work help to develop her character, but it also provides her with an opportunity to explore potential career interests and build a resume for later job and academic pursuits. Consider formal volunteer opportunities in local schools, churches, libraries or non-profit organizations. If volunteer opportunities are limited, the two of you can spend some girl time together ransacking your closets and storage areas to find items to donate to clothing and toy drives.
Nurture your child’s developing logic and reasoning skills with board games, and he will never notice you are using fun games for educational purposes. Games like Risk, Stratego, Battleship, Chess and Checkers teach children to strategize and plan ahead. Incorporate a game night into your schedule each week for some one-on-one interaction and academic improvement. You never know; you may just sharpen your own logic and reasoning skills in the process.
Even if your child has begun to reject quality time together, she will have a hard time resisting the opportunity to indulge in tasty chocolate brownies, gooey chocolate chip cookies or scrumptious cinnamon buns. Your child is now old enough to participate more fully in baking activities, so you can hand over the reins and act as the helping hand instead of the lead chef. The time also provides the two of you with an opportunity to discuss important events in your lives. You can bake a single batch of cookies together or designate a day each month to a parent and child bake-a-thon to try out new recipes. The prospect of new delectable treats may help to keep this special time on her mind during the days in between your baking sessions. If treats are not your thing, consider some healthy meals and snacks the two of you can make together instead.
Play a family murder mystery game to help her develop her deductive reasoning skills. You can purchase a game such as Clue or make one up yourself. Get the family together for the evening and assign each person a role in the scene. If you have a small family, you may want to let your child invite a few of his friends to join in the fun. Play the game through to the end and then discuss the strategies and theories used to determine the guilty suspect.
The learning stuff is important during this stage, but some one-on-one time to just indulge can help to foster a strong and lasting relationship through the upcoming teenage years. If your preteen spends more time doing her hair each morning than she does doing homework in a week, she is likely to enjoy getting some beauty treatments together. If you’re on a tight budget, take turns giving each other manicures and pedicures, makeovers and new hairstyles. Experiment with homemade beauty treaments from a trustworthy fashion magazine. If you can afford to splurge, make an appointment with a beauty salon every once in a while to indulge in some pampering together.
- KidsHealth: Community Service: A Family's Guide to Getting Involved
- Improving Parent-Adolescent Relationships; Darrell J. Burnett
- Playful Learning: Develop Your Child's Sense of Joy and Wonder; Mariah Bruehl
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