The Terrible Tweens
Your kids are approaching their teen years. They’re “tweens” . . . not yet teens, but no longer little ones, either. These in-between years can be difficult transition years (physically, emotionally, and cognitively) for kids. Some of the transition issues can be anticipated and (at least somewhat) prepared for, such as breast development, mood swings, and an increasing sense of autonomy. However, the unique manifestations of some of these transitions can be tricky. Let’s discuss some of these.
While you used to be able to sit down with your kids and help them with their homework, that may no longer be a viable option with your tweens. First, as your kids mature, their homework becomes more complex. Sure, you can help your younger kids’ elementary math homework, but how long has it been since you had to calculate an algebra equation? Too long to remember the mathematical rules? Second, tweens are increasingly independent. They may prefer to do things on their own. If they need help, they may not be receptive to receiving the very help they need . . . especially when that help comes from a parent, from whom they are gradually trying to need less. Therefore, if your tweens need help with homework, you may be well advised to hire a tutor or access a supplemental learning service such as a Sylvan Learning Center
Lots of tweens find it difficult to maintain harmonious relationships with their classmates. Schoolyard fights, hurtful gossip, and other peer-level school scuffles are not uncommon. Ensure that your tweens have surrounded themselves with a strong support system (good friends, supportive school faculty and staff, etc.) and that they know how and when to properly tap those resources. Ensure that your tweens know how to be a part of a strong support system for others as well. Teach your kids to calmly walk away from physical fights, verbal conflicts that they can’t win or aren’t worth the win, and relationships that are negative or outright destructive. Make sure that your kids go into their tween years with enough self-confidence and self-knowledge to ride out the storms that will inevitably come.
Peer Pressure to Do Inappropriate Things
Every parent has heard about sexual peer pressure that early daters may experience, but what many parents are not prepared for is that not-yet-dating tweens may face similar peer pressure. From dares to kiss a boy or girl behind the school building to tween sex parties (yes, these actually do happen), parents need to talk with their tweens early and often about following the family’s moral code and encourage their tweens to speak freely with them if they feel peer pressure or observe peer pressure exhibited toward others in their presence or toward others that they know.
Tween peer pressure isn’t just about sex, either. It is also about shoplifting, driving, smoking, drinking, doing drugs, and a host of other parental nightmares. As above, parents must speak with their tweens early and often about their expectations on these subjects. Shoplifting is against the law and morally wrong. Driving should wait until it can be done legally, safely, and (at least initially) with parental instruction and supervision. Smoking, drinking, and drugs are against the law, unhealthy, and not worth the risks to your tween; smoking and drugs should never be engaged in, whereas drinking in moderation can wait ’til it’s legal and engaged in freely rather than through peer pressure.
As tweens become interested in more-than-friends relationships, they start jostling for social position with their peer group. In the process, they can become increasingly self-conscious and self-critical. This is especially true if your tweens have weight issues, acne, or other challenges that make it difficult for them to successfully vie for their desired social position. Ironically, your tweens that have ideal physical development relative to social positioning (i.e., the gorgeous blonde daughter who develops large breasts early in her tween years) may have problems too, inasmuch as they may encounter peers who see them as physical entities only (i.e., a “sex object”), and that may create self-consciousness and self-criticism. To address these concerns, parents of tweens need to ensure that their kids have a strong sense of self and a high level of self-confidence going into their tween years. Throughout the tween years, parents need to reaffirm their kids and ensure that their kids are talking with them whenever they are struggling with self-consciousness and self-criticism.
These are but a few of the stressful manifestation of the tween transition. While the tween years will very likely be challenging even under the best of circumstances, the above tips can help parents minimize the frequency and severity of the challenges.