Parenting the “in betweens”
Not yet teenagers but not so little anymore, the term “tween” is generally given to children between the ages of 9 and 12. They’re caught between two age groups and don’t really fit into either, so it can be a challenging time for kids of this age, and an equally challenging time for parents and grandparents who are raising them.
As tweens, social pressures change as children become more aware of the boy-girl dynamic, homework increases, hormones start to kick in, and they tend to become more self-conscious and more aware of that seemingly overwhelming need to fit in. It’s a time when parents might find their children pushing boundaries, acting out, and struggling to find their way.
Parenting a tween isn’t always easy, but experts1 have advice for parents trying to guide their children through these sometimes-tumultuous years.
5 ways to cope with the tween years:
- Make sure your tween is getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet. Everything may seem to be in flux and feel unbalanced in their lives, so keeping the basics on track is critical because it will help them cope with these new pressures.
- Give them down time. Between school, homework, sports, and other extracurricular activities, being a tween can be a busy job. Ensuring that they have adequate quiet time to relax or go outside and enjoy unstructured play is important for their mental and physical wellbeing. They are still just children, after all.
- Be there to listen. Tweens often complain that their parents just don’t listen to them. Keep those lines of communication open now so they’ll stay open as your child ages. Turn off the TV, put down your smartphone and give your child your undivided attention – and try to remain calm no matter what she tells you. She’ll be much more apt to continue sharing her thoughts and experiences if she feels you have a sympathetic and understanding ear.
- Limit social media. Decide on the parameters and stick to them. You need to encourage your child to confide in you and other family members. It’s important for them to talk to the real people in their lives, rather than sitting in front of a screen in isolation for hours on end “talking” to their friends online. There is a time and place for social media and right now you get to decide the rules.
- Be careful when scolding. Tweens will push boundaries and may act out in ways they never did before. Obviously this behavior must be dealt with, but when scolding your child, make sure you only criticize the bad behavior, not the child. You never want your child to feel that they are bad, simply that what they are currently doing or saying is unacceptable. Stay calm and lead by example when disagreements arise.2
Above all, try to remember that your child is growing and changing, and that it’s never a simple process. They aren’t purposely trying to push your buttons, they’re just trying to understand and cope with all these new feelings and experiences as best they can. Be patient and loving – even when they may be at their most unlovable – so that your tween always knows they have a rock-solid ally in you.
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