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Dear Care and Feeding,
My children, 10 and 13, have started complaining regularly about what a bad mood I’m in on the weekends.
I know some of this is developmentally appropriate, and I shouldn’t stress over it; but the truth is I really am in a bad mood on the weekends because, from Friday evening until Monday morning, my kids and my spouse pretty much reject every suggestion I make about how to spend our free time. Let’s have ice cream for dessert to celebrate the end of the week! No, we don’t feel like going out to get it; if I go get it, they didn’t like that flavor anyway. Let’s go to this street festival on Saturday! No, it looks dumb and it’s too cold/hot/uncomfortable outside. But if I don’t make the effort, the kids spend all day on screens, complaining that they’re bored, and my spouse asks me constantly what we should do, or spends the whole day on a screen as well. And if I make plans to leave them at home, they all complain that I didn’t include them. Yes, I’m in a bad mood! I love my family, and when I can drag them out the door we do have fun together, but being rejected and countered all the time is draining and miserable. How do I end this cycle?
—Bad Mood Mama
Dear Bad Mood Mama,
My 11-year-old is also deeply unimpressed with my activity suggestions these days. And honestly, it’s an awkward age for planning activities—so many children’s activities are geared at much younger kids. Also, teens and tweens are rapidly changing and developing new interests and may no longer be into things they even recently loved doing, which can be frustrating.
Find out if the issue is kids who aren’t interested in anything, or if it’s that they’re just not interested in the things you want them to be interested in. I have endured so many mind-numbing hours playing Roblox with my kid because that’s what he’s interested in, and it makes him ecstatic for me to take an interest. I sat through the Twenty One Pilots Cinematic Experience in the theater because they were his favorite band. What are your kids doing on those screens and can you join them? Can they teach you how to play their current favorite video game or can you binge-watch a series together? How can you explore their interests as a family? How about extracurriculars, like joining a sports team or taking music or dance lessons? If you can afford it or can find a low-cost or free option like Street Soccer USA, there’s nothing like a soccer tournament to fill up the whole dang weekend.
And don’t underestimate tweens and teens’ focus on their friendships. I often sweeten the pot by telling my son he can invite a friend to join us. He’s usually much more interested in my activity suggestions when they are also an opportunity to socialize with someone his own age. Or let your kids invite a friend over to your home on the weekends and involve them in your family life, while also keeping your kids entertained. I know the constant rejection starts to sting, but if you can meet your kids where their interests lie, you will have better luck navigating this transitional period and figuring out new ways to connect and spend time together.
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We have two adorable grandchildren, 4 and 6, on the other side of the country. Their parents, our son and daughter-in-law, are struggling with debt and living in a one-bedroom apartment. The financial problems are related to their own bad decisions and to serious medical problems, which are mostly resolved but may recur. Our son works remotely, but he needs to be at work, not caring for high-energy rambunctious kids who get very loud and excited playing video games or watching TV. Our daughter-in-law just got a job that involves a lot of overnight travel.