is this normal 12 yr old behavior? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 27 Old 07-08-2014, 02:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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is this normal 12 yr old behavior?

My cousin's 12 yo daughter is staying with us for a few weeks. She is a bit home sick but is doing ok. I have a 3 yo dd and a 8 mo. Old ds. She comes out of her room for a while, and is a bit quiet but pleasent, and then dissapears back into her room for a while. My dd likes a lot of attention anf im tryi g to make sure she knows that she doesnt have to play with her all the time. I have a hatd time talking to her because she wont look me in the eyes and she gibes no feedback. Im trying to figure out if her behavior is normal or if she is going back in her room to baul her eyes out. She texted her mother in the middle of the night to say she wanted to come home. That's how I know she is home sick. I had a text conversation with her to explain that we'd like her to stay but we wont be upset if she wants us to take her home early and that she can talk to me. I just dont know if I should be doing something or if I sjould just let her be and come and go on her own time... any advice?
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#2 of 27 Old 07-08-2014, 03:32 PM
 
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I have a 12 year old and your niece's behavior sounds pretty normal to me. What I've tried to do is remind myself that 12 year olds have the same set of unique needs as any other stage of development. I think their helpfulness and their budding sense of what is acceptable behavior can sometimes mean that adults let pre-teen needs sit on the back burner.

I would suggest that you treat her like any other child in that you meet her at her developmental need. For my 12 year old, that would mean taking the lead on some age appropriate activities. Museums, sports, outings, and etc. Just as you would a 3 year old, you will want to focus on what her needs/wants are and try to accommodate them.

Perhaps you could also help her write to her family and friends (this seems to have a strong appeal for my DC).

Don't get me wrong -- I KNOW that meeting the needs of 12 year old can be confusing. They are at an age where they have trouble asserting their wants/needs. I think avoiding eye contact is part of that. I think they know they are past the whining stage but they have not yet learned to speak up for themselves and they don't have the independence (in a new setting) to take matters into their own hands.

So, I would say, yes, let her go home or try to find a way to entertain her in a way that works for your family.

Additionally, I would suggest that a person of this age may WANT to feel needed. Perhaps she could do a bit of babysitting in exchange for an outing with just you? Or give her a chore and use that free time to arrange for something fun for her.

One last thing, I have been working with my DC to learn appropriate times to phone or text me. In the middle of the night would set me off (because there is nothing I can do at that time). Perhaps encourage her to call home in the afternoons or connect before bed.

Extended family stuff is great for this age but I do think it takes a bit of finesse. Good for you for looking for ways to support your niece.
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#3 of 27 Old 07-08-2014, 03:43 PM
 
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From what I remember homesickness and boredom are closely tied. I've noticed that the same has been true for dd at camps and with family. I think finding daily activities to do will help make this experience positive.
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#4 of 27 Old 07-08-2014, 05:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies! I am tryi g to schedule something each day. She did babysit my 3 yo for a bit and we went to yoga together just her and I. I just can't tell if she is having a good time or not! She has been helpful and I have made sure to involve her and thank her. She wants to go home. She texted it.... Thanks for the help!
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#5 of 27 Old 07-08-2014, 07:42 PM
 
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This age it is sometimes hard to tell. And I think it can be hard to find the right types of activities. Don't beat yourself up if going home seems the best choice. <3
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#6 of 27 Old 07-09-2014, 06:31 AM
 
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That sounds a lot like my now 13 year old. He spends lots of time in his room and doing his own thing. He is less tolerant of his sisters getting all up in his stuff and bugging him a lot. It doesn't mean he doesn't get a long with them, he just sometimes wants to do his own thing. I have found that striking a balance between his time and then doing other things helps a lot. I allow him time to do his own thing in his room (text friends, create electronic music, read manga, etc) and then we also go hiking, go to the library, play games, cook, run errands etc. He gets a chance to bond with family AND time to himself.

That said, it does sound like this girl might be a little homesick. Maybe you can make sure to ask her to join you with some things? What does she like to do? I've noticed that my son rarely initiates, but if I initiate then he'll be happy to do something. But I really have to initiate most activities.
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#7 of 27 Old 07-09-2014, 01:58 PM
 
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Nutmeg dont blame yourself. 12 is an incredibly hard age. almost like the 3s.

but dont give up. keep trying to involve her till she leaves.

i know your hands are tied with two little ones, but can you go out and do things? one thing i know 12 year olds are starved of (at least the ones i know) is one on one interaction. so when your partner is home maybe you and her could go see a movie.

sometimes even a trip to the grocery store can be fun. get her involved to plan a main dish and have fun shopping.

or board games at home - as much as the little ones will allow. like yahtzee.

my friends borrow dd sometimes and do simple things with her. even the grocery store. they get her an icecream. but they really need one on one attention as others pointed out. it doesnt have to be a big thing. even the park. or a frappacino or iced tea.

i am also trying to figure out how familiar you are with her. has she seen you regularly and did you have a comfortable relationship before she came to stay with you? they feel very uncomfortable easily. their age approp. thought always is - am i doing it right? will i be liked?

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#8 of 27 Old 07-09-2014, 02:32 PM
 
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My cousin's 12 yo daughter is staying with us for a few weeks. She is a bit home sick but is doing ok. I have a 3 yo dd and a 8 mo. Old ds. She comes out of her room for a while, and is a bit quiet but pleasent, and then dissapears back into her room for a while. My dd likes a lot of attention anf im tryi g to make sure she knows that she doesnt have to play with her all the time. I have a hatd time talking to her because she wont look me in the eyes and she gibes no feedback. Im trying to figure out if her behavior is normal or if she is going back in her room to baul her eyes out. She texted her mother in the middle of the night to say she wanted to come home. That's how I know she is home sick. I had a text conversation with her to explain that we'd like her to stay but we wont be upset if she wants us to take her home early and that she can talk to me. I just dont know if I should be doing something or if I sjould just let her be and come and go on her own time... any advice?
12 can seem "old" when you've got toddlers and infants but it's still an age where kids can have difficulty being away from home and immediate family for long periods of time. It's natural for her to feel homesick and maybe a bit uncomfortable. On top of that, it's an age where it's "cool to be bored." Showing too much enthusiasm can be considered childish to them. I've taken 12-year-old nieces and nephews to water parks and watched them go crazy on the slides only to be told it was "ok" or "kinda boring" on the way home lol. You can't take it personally and when it's not your kid, it's best to just laugh it off than call them out like you would totally do with your own kid.

Like others have mentioned, try to keep her busy... bake some goodies or try making something like a fruit trifle or home-made pizza with her. Outings are always good. Give her a couple dollars to spend on postcards while you are out so she can send them to her family and friends. I know, it sounds old-fashioned with texting ability but kids still enjoy doing that. Crafts are great with girls that age. Do you know how to knit or crochet? Could you teach her? How about sewing a cute throw-pillow for her bed at home or water-color? Do you have any pictures of your cousin when you guys were little? Using a fun picture in a craft to take home might be something that connects her to home and keeps her busy.

Don't ASK her "do you want to make some cookies?" If you ask an unhappy 12-year-old that they will say "no" over and over. If you say "hey, I'm baking cookies, come help me out" then the expectation is that she participates.

Include her in the plans but don't overwhelm her. Don't say "what do you want to do tomorrow?" That's too open-ended and a visiting child doesn't know what is available, what is in the price-range or what is appropriate for you to attend with 2 little ones in tow. Instead try "it's free day at the museums tomorrow... what is your preference science or art?"

It's normal and you aren't doing anything wrong.
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#9 of 27 Old 07-09-2014, 03:48 PM
 
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I guess I am the odd one out. I would let her go home. She seems either too polite or too shy to speak up with you. I guess I know how it feels to want to go home. And a few weeks, to me, seems like a long time to be away. I would be homesick and I am an adult! lol Maybe sit down with her in the evening and have a talk with her. Ask her what you can do at your house to help her stay be fun. Tell her that you want to spend time with her and get to know her more but you would completely understand if she wants to go home. Maybe share a time with her that you were homesick. Maybe that will help her to be honest with you about her feelings. Good luck!
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#10 of 27 Old 07-09-2014, 04:11 PM
 
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Homeschoolingmama, I wouldn't say you are the odd one out. Sending the girl home is obviously an option and may even be the best one in the end. I just personally like to give every chance for these experiences to be positive. There is nothing worse than a kid feeling like they've failed at something that was supposed to be fun. Even if everyone is understanding, if she goes home early, she'll feel like she's failed.

I was a Girl Scout leader for 13 years and did some time as a summer sleep-away camp counselor a couple years as well. There was only one girl a little TLC didn't win over on all our trips. She was extreme from the start... sobbed for days... throwing up from separation anxiety. She was 11 and the parents didn't want to pick her up. Eventually I had to force them to come get her. To be fair, the parents were good people... they just were frustrated at this particular anxiety and didn't know how to cope. The "crying out" approach was sort of the desperate last straw. I believe the girl eventually went into therapy as even in high school, she couldn't manage more than a couple hours not hearing from her mom (and family had 4 kids... the other 3 never had any such issues.)

There certainly is a time to send a kid home and I agree that a few weeks is quite a bit of time to be away from home. I just like to give any situation the best chance at succeeding first.

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#11 of 27 Old 07-09-2014, 04:21 PM
 
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12 can definitely be an odd age. I would try for some alone time and activities like others suggested until she can go home if that's what she wants. Another thing I found with teens is that they like to be "important" and knowledgeable. With my cousin's son at that age we seemed to bond when I could find something he was interested in and I wasn't/didn't know about so he could teach me something. It was something fun for him and he got to feel a little more grown up because he knew something and could show someone else. Like skateboarding or basketball. It was always a blast for him to teach me how to do the stuff and laugh at my mistakes. It helped lighten the mood and give him something to be proud of - he was good at something and could share it with someone else. Idk what the family dynamic is for your cousin's dd but for my cousin's ds he was the oldest by at least 5 years just with the next sibling. His house was always family oriented and thus focused on more "baby" activities that the little ones could do than something more his age and interest. It was good for him to get away with me or other friends of the family and have "big kid" time that was focused on just him and his interests with no worries about little ones not being able to be involved in it. It was hard to do since I had little ones but we would find times that would make it work. It really helped him feel more at ease with us and at home to get some time for his own interests.

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#12 of 27 Old 07-09-2014, 04:24 PM
 
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Homeschoolingmama, I wouldn't say you are the odd one out. Sending the girl home is obviously an option and may even be the best one in the end. I just personally like to give every chance for these experiences to be positive. There is nothing worse than a kid feeling like they've failed at something that was supposed to be fun. Even if everyone is understanding, if she goes home early, she'll feel like she's failed.

I was a Girl Scout leader for 13 years and did some time as a summer sleep-away camp counselor a couple years as well. There was only one girl a little TLC didn't win over on all our trips. She was extreme from the start... sobbed for days... throwing up from separation anxiety. She was 11 and the parents didn't want to pick her up. Eventually I had to force them to come get her. To be fair, the parents were good people... they just were frustrated at this particular anxiety and didn't know how to cope. The "crying out" approach was sort of the desperate last straw. I believe the girl eventually went into therapy as even in high school, she couldn't manage more than a couple hours not hearing from her mom (and family had 4 kids... the other 3 never had any such issues.)

There certainly is a time to send a kid home and I agree that a few weeks is quite a bit of time to be away from home. I just like to give any situation the best chance at succeeding first.
Very true. Every child has different needs at any age just like adults. Each one has different approaches that will work which is why these forums are so great for feedback to get different opinions and options to try. I have found with summer camp work also that sometimes kids will react better to certain counselors than others for whatever reason too. Trying different ideas should eventually find a way to make the girl more comfortable. Good luck OP!

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#13 of 27 Old 07-10-2014, 05:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks all! Yesterday went a bit better. We went to the mall and made a sewing project. She talked a bit more and showed excitement towards the events. Im not sure I can keep her that entertained every day though. Today we'll go to the zoo and park, which might be a bit little kiddish for her but there isnt much more to do here.

She still wants to go home but she has to wait til my husband can take her home Saturday. My baby doesn't travel well and we spent last weekend in the car to go get her. She lives 6 hours away if you drive strait through, which we cant do with little kids.

We've talked (well, I've talked) about how I understand how she feels and i'm not upset that she has changed her mind. The truth is I am a bit frustrated but I have been very careful not to show it to her or her mother, who will just shame her.

I spent a lot of time away from home during the summer and its not like I was never home sick, I guess I just managed my feeligs differently. To be fair, she rarely goes more than 45 minutes from home.
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#14 of 27 Old 07-10-2014, 06:13 AM
 
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Just remember that in a lot of ways times have changed for pre-teens. Kids in my area still spend a lot of time away from home. There are lots of two income earning families. But what kids do here are lovely summer camps designed specifically for pre-teens. I spent time way as a kid as well but it was so different. We were at the beach where we were allowed to take the bus, go to the ocean and bay, walk the boardwalk, shop, eat, all day long. The vast majority of teen away-from-home activities from my childhood and for the kids in my area involve activities with peers.

I think a pre-teen joining a family with young children is just hard. It's not your fault - not at all! But it isn't her's either. I know you aren't blaming her but I also know it can be hard to keep perspective with kids of this age.

It would be lovely if you guys could start to celebrate her visit. Going home early is absolutely NO big deal and should not be an indication to anyone that the trip wasn't fine, good, nice family time.

If her mom is the type to not be understanding, I would do this girl a favor and put the early end on me. I would just say that it was hard for me to strike a balance between my own young kids and the teen and that I was worried that I wasn't doing enough for her and really felt that going home early was the best for all involved.
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#15 of 27 Old 07-10-2014, 08:48 AM
 
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The vast majority of teen away-from-home activities from my childhood and for the kids in my area involve activities with peers.

I think a pre-teen joining a family with young children is just hard. It's not your fault - not at all! But it isn't her's either. I know you aren't blaming her but I also know it can be hard to keep perspective with kids of this age.

It would be lovely if you guys could start to celebrate her visit. Going home early is absolutely NO big deal and should not be an indication to anyone that the trip wasn't fine, good, nice family time.

If her mom is the type to not be understanding, I would do this girl a favor and put the early end on me. I would just say that it was hard for me to strike a balance between my own young kids and the teen and that I was worried that I wasn't doing enough for her and really felt that going home early was the best for all involved.
ITA. My son really has limited interest in spending time with younger kids. They love spending time with him and he is nice to them. But eventually he just wants to do what he finds interesting which might not be age appropriate/interesting to the younger kids. And my nieces are much more interested in peer activity and pop culture.

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#16 of 27 Old 07-10-2014, 11:16 AM
 
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nutmeg my dd and i discussed this thread yesterday.

what she said was perhaps your neice was not used to being away from home very often (which u thus confirmed). dd said about sleepaway camps now she understands why they keep the kids so busy all the time. and she also said its good to stretch. that its a good thing that you didnt take her back immediately. sometimes one needs to just live through that experience to realize it wasnt as bad as she thought it was. and since your neice wasnt showing too much upsetness - inconsolable crying, not wanting to do things with you... that maybe after outdoor and indoor fun things ... just maybe she might enjoy it there.

maybe you could say things aloud to her. things like how happy you are that she is here. how you've been looking forward to it. so she doesnt feel seh was dumped on you even though you went to pick her up.

you can create a family thing with her being like an older sibling. you will have to go out of your comfort zone and do and say things you probably dont want to really say aloud.

but really - if YOU are overwhelmed you need to take her back. because even though you may not say anything, your body language will show your true feelings. and teens are susper sensitive just like babies to pick up these emotions.

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#17 of 27 Old 07-10-2014, 09:40 PM
 
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This kinda behaviour is normal in kids. It happens coz they take time adjusting in the new environment. You should leave her on her own and I'm sure she'll get better with time.

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#18 of 27 Old 07-12-2014, 08:57 AM
 
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I'm a bit confused as to why she is staying with you. Was this her idea? Thinking back to when I was 12, spending weeks away from my friends and usual activities would not be my idea of a fun summer. My favorite thing to do at that age was to hide in my room, reading, doing puzzles, and sewing. I also spent a lot of time at the library and book store. My two older daughters spent most of their time at that age hanging out with their friends or spending time in their rooms doing art (depending on their preferences). Our youngest dd was 13 when our son was born. She spent a lot of time helping and watching him while I was working. Not her preference but that's the way it was. When she wasn't needed for child care, she was either in her room or at a friend's house.

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#19 of 27 Old 07-13-2014, 08:37 AM
 
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Yes I agree with sewchris... why she is staying with you would definitely play a role in deciding how to respond to her difficulties. Was this an adventure she chose because there was something about your family and your town that she hoped to take advantage of and enjoy? Was it something her parents arranged because they were going to be unable to care for her for part of the summer? Or was it something they thought would be good for her because she's been hesitant to separate from home and family? It seems like a kind of unusual summer arrangement for a 12-year-old without some pretty compelling reasons. What is her experience with being away from home and family? Has she done sleep-away camps or stayed with other extended family for periods of time? The answers to these questions would help at guessing whether she's painfully homesick and unhappy or just a quiet self-absorbed peri-adolescent.

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#20 of 27 Old 07-14-2014, 11:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks all. We took her home on saturday. I tried to make sure we did things every day, and that she also got her own time. As suggested I initiated activities, which she gladly participated in. We made banana bread together and did a sewing project. After she got home her grandmother told me she seemed to have had a blast by how much she was chattering on. Success! Although I would never have known it at the time. The idea to come visit was mine but it was entirely her choice. Like I said, I used to spend a lot of time with family (mostly her mother and grandmother, my cousin and aunt) and I loved it. So I thought id offer the same. Sort of next generation. I always had such a good relationship with my cousin and aunt and I was hoping she and I could have the same thing. She and I were close when she was little but life kind of took me away. I was 14 when she was born and I spent a lot of time there until I graduated high school, got a job and eventually married and had kids. Then I didn't have time to spend with her like I used to. I was hoping to get a bit of that back and to let her know I hadn't forgotten about her. I'm not sure I accomplished all that. I guess my ideas of how things would go were a bit idealistic... I hope she felt a little of that. 12 is much harder than I thought it would be! If she were my own kid I would have had a lot to say but I found it hard to say what I wanted because I was worried I was going to upset her ( or make her think i was bonkers!). Some of the distance between us (which I realize is all me) is also because of her mother's choices. I find it hard to be close to her (my cousin) anymore because she is making a lot of choices I don't agree with. In the past 6 years she's had several deadbeat men living with her, she's had a substance abuse problem and she lives on fast food and diet coke and make fun of me for eating right and breastfeeding my babies. Her mother and I have just become very different people. I don't want to say anything that makes her think I'm critical of her mother so I don't say anything... which probably isn't the right way to go about things. I guess I was hoping that by coming to stay with me she would see that i love her and that there are other ways to live without me saying anything negative about how her mother chooses to live. Wow, well that turned into a therapy session... thanks for all of your help!
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#21 of 27 Old 07-14-2014, 12:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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She never goes far from home. That was a big part of the problem I think. She had never been to my house before. We always visit her.
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#22 of 27 Old 07-14-2014, 01:25 PM
 
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NM, if she's raving and you're getting feedback that she had a great time - I think you can assume that she enjoyed herself. 12 is an AWESOME age (IMO) but I think it's a little like infancy in that having an intuitive understanding of needs can sometimes be required. And, of course, that's impossible/difficult for an aunt to have. Please congratulate yourself on a wonderful visit and a memorable gesture to your niece!

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#23 of 27 Old 07-14-2014, 03:48 PM
 
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nutmeg - that is awesome. i am so glad that she had a good time.

but i would entreat you not to throw in the towel yet. i think you will get what you wanted if you give it a bit of time.

she never went anywhere and then boom gone for weeks? nope. even at 12. actually esp. at 12 really hard to do.

i know you have that looooooooong drive - esp. hard with two small children to do.

but if you could do shorter trips - and then build up to summers with you or a month with you... it might be easier.

but i would not give up. i wish there was a easier way you could pick her up. would she be comfortable with just your dh doing the driving and you guys not going?

havign an almost 12 year old myself i cant tell you how much it sooo helps them out hanging out with others. others so different than them. just a whole different perspective.

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#24 of 27 Old 07-14-2014, 06:32 PM
 
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Originally Posted by meemee View Post
but i would entreat you not to throw in the towel yet. i think you will get what you wanted if you give it a bit of time.

she never went anywhere and then boom gone for weeks? nope. even at 12. actually esp. at 12 really hard to do.
I completely agree. I found 12 to be a very difficult age with both my DDs, who were totally AP, GD, etc from birth. Its just a rough age.

Also, there can be a difference between what an adolescent is expressing, how they actually feel about it in the moment, how they feel about it in a month, and how they feel about years later. With little kids, what you see is what you get, but not necessarily true about adolescents.

Your memories are that you LOVED your trips, but you may have spent part of the time being pissy and moody. Its really normal for kids this age, even happy well adjusted ones, to not have a clue when they are acting pissy and moody. Part of the problem is that if kids have been raised that it is OK to have a full range of emotions, then they express them. The art of learning to express our feelings appropriately with tact and grace is beyond most 12 year olds, and their emotions are often on overdrive because of hormonal imbalances.

It sounds like in the end, you guys did great. She enjoyed the trip, and it sounds like she got to do some things she usually doesn't get to. I think you should invite her back sometime.

As far as making fun of you for eating differently than she is used to, I suggest kindly explaining to her that making fun of people isn't kind, even though she most likely sees people do that in other context. In your house, the rule is not to make fun of other people. Some kids in tough situations have learned that they have to put other people to be on top -- its a survival skill for them. You can show her another way, but it has to be gentle, or its hypocritical. You can't put her down either for the way she eats or the way she puts others down without doing exactly what you would like her to stop doing. You can model total acceptance of her, while showing her that *in at least some situations* she doesn't need to put others down to be OK.

I think she needs you, and that she likes you. This is just the start.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#25 of 27 Old 07-15-2014, 05:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It is the 12 year old's mother that makes fun of my choices. Sorry for the confusion.
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#26 of 27 Old 07-15-2014, 07:16 AM
 
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Hang in there. Keep in touch--by email, by phone, etc. Invite her back for another week. Probably not this summer, but next summer. Maybe do some long weekends during the school year. Be the older sister/mentor. I have always been grateful for the older women who made the effort to be friends with my girls. An older (even if only by a few years) woman who they felt safe in confiding things that they weren't ready to discuss with their mom yet. Someone to use as sounding board as they figure out this whole adult thing.
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Chris--extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, babywearing, co-sleeping, APing, CLW, homeschooling before any of this was a trend mom to Joy (1/78), Erica (8/80), Angela (9/84), Dylan (2/98)
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#27 of 27 Old 07-28-2014, 04:49 AM
 
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Read this a bit late but it sounds like you did a great job. I think like others have suggested try and maintain the relationship because I'm sure you'll be a positive role model and before long she will be the one asking to come stay with you
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