How to Make Heart Connections With Our Teens and Tweens

It was the last day of school many years ago. My oldest son had just gotten off the bus. I expected him to run in the house with a big grin on his face welcoming summer break. Instead, he walked slowly, kicking the grass. I could tell there was something wrong. “Why do we have to move?” he asked angrily as tears began streaming down his cheeks. He was ready to bolt, but I held him and said, “It’s okay.” We moved quickly to a comfortable chair and I rocked my then nine-year-old as he cried. “It’s okay. Just let it out,” I crooned as I kissed his head. After a few long moments, he whispered, “Everybody’s asking whose class I’m in next year.” “That hurts, doesn’t it?” I replied. He felt left out and scared of the unknown. His jumbled emotions had gotten the best of him. He needed to sort it out. We snuggled and talked it through – the end of the school year, the move, making friends – the bittersweet nature of life. “I feel better now,” he announced. He was ready to leap out of my lap and begin his summer adventures, but I wanted to give him a dozen more kisses. I settled for one last resistant hug, a smile and a “M-om!” Just as quickly as it had come, the inner storm disappeared…at least for a little while. I stood longingly in the kitchen, thinking back on what had just happened. He came to me. He brought me his fears, showed me his tears…shared his heart. I’m glad I was there.

That’s the way it seems to be with tweens, the children ages 8-12. They are big and brave yet small and tender. They want to do everything themselves, but the second they can’t, their world seems to crumble. They are walking contradictions, trying to figure out life.

How can we help them? How do we let them know that we are a safe place for them to share their hearts…now, in the teen years and throughout their lives?

Tamara Fyke
Tamara Fyke
Tamara Fyke is an educator and social entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator, author, and brand manager for Love in a Big World, which equips K-8 educators with a social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum that is both research-based and practical, and also provides the supporting resources necessary to empower students to be socially competent, emotionally healthy problem-solvers who discover and maintain a sense of purpose and make a positive difference in the world. Tamara is the editor of Building People: Social & Emotional Learning for Kids, Schools & Communities, a book that brings 12 wide-ranging perspectives on SEL to educators, parents, and leaders. Now more than ever, we need to teach our children what LOVE looks like. Find out more at

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