How can I help my child . . .
- What is a tween?
- What do tweens go through?
- How can I help support myself and my tween during this transition?
What is a Tween?
The term “tween” refers to someone who is in the transition between being a child and a teenager. The age range is 9-12 years old and they are typically in middle school and about to hit puberty. Children this age are also called “pre-teens” or middle schoolers. There are often new demands and responsibilities in school and tweens go through many mental, emotional, physical and social changes. Because of that, it can be a challenging time for tweens and their parents and caregivers.
Tweens are in the process of creating their identity and figuring out who they are. One moment they may be passionate about soccer and then a month later change to rugby or lacrosse. It is a time of exploration and experimentation, so although it may seem random to a parent, it is actually quite normal for tweens to change activities and interests. This is all part of them learning what they like and what they are good at. Parents can be a great support if they are willing to allow that freedom and independence.
In addition to interests, a tween’s moods may also vary. They may shift from being cuddly and loving one day to anxious and irritated the next. Many parents report that they feel their child has literally changed overnight. Cognitively, tweens are more capable of abstract thinking and reasoning and their bodies are about to go through a major shift as well. Because of all this change, tweens may become self-conscious and insecure and not be sure about where they fit in.
Why It Matters
Although a tween will want more freedom and independence during this time, it is still important for a parent or caregiver to be visible, accessible and attuned to what is going on with their child. Because of their desire to experiment and fit in, tweens are more likely to engage in risky behavior and less likely to follow the rules. Parents and caregivers must maintain high expectations for their child while also giving them more autonomy and privacy.
The physical changes that take place during puberty can happen very suddenly and quickly. This can create feelings of awkwardness and self-consciousness because tweens are not used to their new voice, their skin, or their new body shape. They are also becoming more aware of their own thoughts and those of others. This increases their self-awareness and social awareness.
The physical changes that take place during puberty can happen very suddenly and quickly.
This can create feelings of awkwardness and self-consciousness because tweens are not used to their new voice, their skin, or their new body shape. They are also becoming more aware of their own thoughts and those of others. This increases their self-awareness and social awareness.
Because of their desire to develop an identity, this is where cliques become more prevalent and your tween may be struggling to find where they fit in. It can also be a time when they are exploring their sexuality and gender identity and expression.
All of this matters because tweens need the support and understanding of their parents and caregivers no matter how much they may resist talking or coming to you for help.
This is a good time to start gathering your resources and arm yourself with information. Knowing where to find support and who you can turn to will help prepare you for the many changes and potential challenges that you and your tween will face. Take a look at this list of common topics related to middle schoolers. Which ones do you feel you know more about? Which topics do you want to learn more about? There are many more resources on this site to help guide you. Simple take a look and click on the link:
- Social and emotional learning and development
- Physical health
- Mental health
- Family relationships
- School success
- Sexuality and sex education
Connect & Communicate:
Your tween will be having a lot of new experiences and be exposed to new things. As a parent, be prepared to talk about difficult topics. The rule of thumb for all hard conversations is to have them early and often. Try not to wait for one “big talk” about things like sex, relationships, drugs or online safety. Shorter, more frequent talks can be more beneficial and less intimidating for you and for your tween. The following are some topics with links to their pages. There you will find conversation starters and strategies for connecting with your child.
- Show understanding and be ready to listen
- Model positive habits like exercise, nutrition and self care
- Have conversations around sex, drugs and alcohol early and often
- Monitor their use of technology and talk about online safety
- Talk to them about healthy relationships and good decision making
Contact & Collaborate:
There are many people in your life who know a lot about the tween years and can help support you and your child.
- Talk to your child’s pediatrician about this transition and what to expect.
- Your child’s school counselor and nurse will also have information about the tween years and how to support them physically, emotionally and academically.
- Be in touch with your child’s teacher. This will help you stay on top of what is happening in school both in the classroom and on the playground.
- Find out what programs the school has for teaching kids about puberty.
- Child Mind Institute (website) Parenting Tweens: What You Should Know
- Very Well Family (website): Tween Parenting: Tips for Raising 10, 11 and 12 Year Olds:
- ActiveBeat (article): 6 Challenging But Normal Tween Behaviors
- Growing Nimble Families (website): A list of podcasts for parents raising tweens