August 16, 2017 Benita Thornhill, MA, LPCA, LCAS-R
Parenting a tween is not the same thing as parenting a school-age child or a teenager. Tweens are usually defined as youth that fall between the ages of 11-13. This is a phenomenal time in your child’s life. The world is full of possibilities and opportunities and they want to be in the center of it all! The following list are ways you can help your tween transition from childhood to adolescent and build a strong relationship with them.
1. Tween’s often compare themselves to their peers.
Developmental changes occur at different rates in everyone. Many times, tweens began to worry when their development doesn’t mirror their peers. It is during this phase of life that individuals can start to develop body image and eating problems. Avoid comparing your tween to his or her peers. Help to ease your tweens mind by helping them to understand that they each person is exceptionally made, with their own special timeline of development and unique journey through life.
2. They believe that all eyes are always on them.
An increase in their awareness about themselves and others often leads them to believe that they are the center of everyone’s attention. This can result in your child placing excessive pressure on themselves to do certain things or look a particular way in order to feel accepted by their peers. This can result in your tween developing a poor self-concept, lacking confidence and being depressed. Help your child develop an internal locus of control so that they will not judge themselves, their dreams or their accomplishments on the approval of others. Help them set achievable goals and celebrate with them when they accomplish them.
3. They want privacy and more independence, but still need your approval.
Because of their increase in awareness of self they are striving to become more autonomous. They enjoy being with their peers and coming up with their own solutions to problems. Although they want to do more things by themselves and savor the time they spend with friends, they still crave your acceptance. You are still very important in their lives. Help them to learn how to solve problems by asking questions and permitting them to ask you questions. Give your tween space to grow, but do not decrease the amount of time you spend one-on-one time with your tween, they still need you.
4. Their thoughts are becoming more analytical.
As your tween continues to grow and develop their brains continue to mature. This brain maturity helps your child to think more logical. It is important to remember that your tween’s brain has not reached full development. Because of this, all stimuli is still received through the pleasure sensor of the brain (amygdala), instead of the prefrontal cortex. This can result in your tween choosing to engage in behaviors that are more pleasurable than those that are not as appealing. It is important to have rules and to be consistent with your implementation of the rules. When your tween breaks the rules, use it to help them increase their use of logic, understanding cause and effect and how to brainstorm alternate routes that could have been taken.
5. They become interested in the opposite sex.
During this time parents often see a spike in their tween’s interest in the opposite sex. Make sure you are available for your tween to talk to about questions they may have, because if they feel they cannot come to you they will consult their peers or someone else. These individuals may give them inaccurate information or information that you do not want them to have. Get to know who your tween’s friends are and meet the families of their friends. Provide activities where their tween can interact with their peers in groups, take part in teen councils or participate in other events that provide your tween a safe environment to develop their social skills.