Growing up, I was blessed with parents who let me tell them anything. And by anything, I mean anything. The best part about the setup was that when I told them the stuff, they didn’t judge. They may have had advice, but they didn’t make me feel stupid for asking a question or bad for “admitting” something I thought might be wrong.

It’s that type of communication that keeps me calling them even now, as a mom of four, to get advice, debrief, and process decisions.

As Miss Sassy Pants began entering the hormone-raging tween years, she became more and more quiet about things at school or things involving emotions. There was a time when we were awaiting Flash that MSP went into a sort of jealous spiral of outbursts and negative-attention seeking.

That’s when I created and introduced Free Zone.

How I Get my to TALK

Every night, before she goes to bed, we have Free Zone. She knows that it’s coming, so a lot of times she’ll wait until Free Zone to tell me what’s going on. Here’s how it works:

Both of us have to share something.

Then, the other has to listen and listen well.

This something can be funny: “I fell on the playground today!” or “I’m so ready for this weekend!”

Or, this something can be serious. Questions are also allowed: “How are babies made?” (Yup, we’ve had this conversation) or “I really don’t like it when you don’t help around the house.”

The key here is that no matter what you share during Free Zone, the other person cannot get angry and cannot get judgmental.

The other key ingredient? It stays right there in Free Zone. What happens in Free Zone stays in Free Zone.

The only caveat: I’ve told MSP that if something we talk about in Free Zone is so important that it could cause a problem or needs to be fixed with other people, we’d have to decide how to share it with whomever (Math Man, her dad, her grandparents, etc.).

We’ve been doing Free Zone for 2 years now. I can say that this has relieved quite a few stressful situations for her as she’s navigating her new hormonal responses as well as her emotional state in the tween world.

It also really has helped as we introduced Baby Diva into the family. One more reason for MSP to not have the spotlight, but Free Zone offers a space that is hers and hers alone.

How to you talk with your tween? Do you have any helpful hints? Share in the comments!