Connecting with your preteen child really starts with the small things you do daily. A smile, a hug, or a kind word can go far in strengthening your relationship even if your kid does not even seem to respond. Children hear it. Children like it. Keep doing it.
One of the things I always say when I see my son after school when I pick him up is "It's nice to see you" and I touch him on the shoulder or on the knee (he sits in the front seat so that makes it easy.) Sometimes I touch his head or stroke the back of his head and neck. I remember one time a few months ago when I did this and noticed him lean back into my touch as if to really absorb my love. I'll never forget that. He wants to pretend he's cool and doesn't need that but noticing him leaning into my touch was an eye opener to how much these little things mean.
Other ideas for little things...
- Share a kind word about your child's hair, clothing, or smile.
- Notice and remark upon your kid doing something right (made her bed, cleaned up her homework pile, took her dishes to the sink, etc.).
- Compliment your son or daughter on their effort to improve something (right now my son is crazy about his kendama so I compliment his effort to practice and get better). Consistently practicing and putting in effort is a good thing to encourage no matter if it's blowing bubbles, burping the alphabet, or shooting hoops.
- Wish "Good Morning" to each other.
- Hug each other before saying "Good-bye."
- Start a conversation about something he or she is interested in and really listen.
- Say "Thank you" and "Please" just as you want him or her to do to you.
- Say "I love you" often.
Just the daily little things we do each day mean so much. Remember that!