Understanding Today's Tweens

Tweens are complex, but parents should take the time to undertand them.

Teenage girl laying on sofa using laptop
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Confident, savvy, and high-tech, they're followers of pop culture and know what social networking is all about. They're tweens, children between the ages of 9 and 12. These youngsters are no longer little kids, but they're not yet teenagers. Understanding your tween can be difficult at times, because tweens are in a constant state of transition.

The tween developmental stage is a difficult one for tweens and parents.

In just under four years, most tweens will face middle school, puberty, and increasing responsibilities at home and elsewhere. These children also have to contend with changing friendships, changing family roles, peer pressure, drugs, and a whole lot more.

Parents of tweens can be just as confused about what is happening to their children as the tweens are themselves. Your daughter might snuggle up to you on the couch one day, the next day she's decided you're no longer needed. Your son may go out of his way to help you with the laundry, and then proceed to leave a pile of dirty dishes in the family room. Your normally polite child may add a few salty words to his vocabulary, and then try them out in front of your in-laws. Such is life with a tween.

What to Expect From Today's Tweens

  • Your child's developing mind and sense of self is the reason behind all the confusion. As hormones kick-in, so do emotional changes. Expect your tween to scroll through emotions frequently and suddenly.
    • Your tween may be negative about his or her appearance and body image. You might hear, "My eyebrows are ugly" or "I hate my nose".
    • Preteens will be self-absorbed. As unattractive as that may be, it's perfectly normal.
    • Your tween's tastes may change day-to-day. Don't be surprised if your tween suddenly announces that she's becoming a vegetarian, or is no longer interested in soccer. This is all a part of the self-discovery process for tweens.
      • Your preteen's self-esteem may take a nosedive.
      • Your tween may be highly critical of himself (and you), so don't be surprised if your once happy-go-lucky child turns into a complaining tween.

      How to React to Emotional Tweens

      • Be patient when your child is in a mood. He may only need a little down time to readjust.
      • Remember what it was like to be a tween. Help your tween find ways to deal with the changes in a positive way, such as through music, reading, or time alone.
      • Counter your tween's negative comments about himself/herself with positive remarks. Don't allow your tween to obsess over body image, and refrain from pointing out imperfections in your child's complexion or appearance. Keep your child focused on the importance of what's inside, not outside.
      • Don't expect too much from tweens. Your tween may act like an adult at times, but she's not. She still needs your guidance and patience to develop a sense of right and wrong, and to make good, informed judgments.
      • Be there to offer advice, but know when to back off. Tweens need to begin making their own decisions in order to learn from those decisions. Allow your tween some wiggle room, but not too much.

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