You and Your "Tween"
Why is it that 11 and 12 year olds want to act like teenagers? Called “tweens”, these youngsters haven’t quite hit adolescence yet, but they sure think they have! Itching to have cell phones, tight jeans, and watch the latest R rated movies; parents struggle to rein these kids in. Moms and Dads are in no rush to have them become fully fledged adolescents! Please give us a few more years of childhood!
But, Charlie age 12, has different ideas. Hanging out with his 6th grade buds (yes, you are yesterday’s news!), he wants to try smoking, watch R rated movies, and see what beer tastes like. He’s been talking about “girls”, and already tells his parents that he has a “girlfriend”. Girls reach puberty more quickly than boys and struggle to fit into their teenage curves even when they still really want to be kids. It’s a really tough time for everyone. Kids are pushing parental limits and adults want to slow everything down.
Talk to your friends. Every adult remembers middle school— and not with great love. It’s a difficult time. Starting middle school as a 6th grader can be sheer terror. Rumors abound about what towering 8th graders do to little 6th grade boys! The school seems huge to these little guys and gals. Gone are the protective shield of elementary school teachers and principals. The first few weeks can be overwhelming. It’s a time in most of our lives that we wish we could forget.
My youngest daughter, when she was in middle school, was on the fast track for teenage hood. She was always pushing the limits. I remember my embarrassment and awkwardness when I found her and her 7th grade boyfriend “couch wrestling” in the family room! I was mortified!
Peer pressure rears its ugly head in middle school. My daughters, who were straight arrows in some respects, told me how many of their friends shoplifted. I remember when I was in 6th grade at the mall with friends and one of my buddies proudly showed me something he had stolen. I was shocked and angry. I yelled at my friend. Meanwhile, a plain clothes store detective heard me and busted my friend. Needless to say, my pal wasn’t too happy with me.
During pre-adolescence hormones are raging. Tweens are moody and irritable much of the time. I remember when my youngest daughter at 14 told me that she had been in a bad mood for the last two years! Wow! She wasn’t kidding.
Pre-adolescents are just starting law school—they can make an argument that seems air tight to them as to why you should let them do X, Y, or Z. My kids loved to tell us that “all of their friend’s parents let their kids do______________(fill in the blanks). Tweens and teens are so influenced by what their peers think. They imagine that adults will be too.
So, hold on to your parental seats---Here are some important things to consider.
Stay Connected. This is crucial. Tweens are starting to move away from wanting to spend time with their parents. I always looked for ways to spend time with them doing what they wanted to do. I respected their desire to hang out with their friends. But I never gave up looking for opportunities to stay in touch with them. Family meals can be helpful. Lots of deep conversations are more likely to happen while you are chauffeuring your tween around than when you are sitting face to face.
Keep them busy! My girls took 2-3 ballet classes a week. Start them young on swim team, basketball, soccer, dance, martial arts---whatever engages their energy and interest. Keeping these kids occupied can keep them out of trouble.
Keep your eyes and ears open. Tweens start to get a little sneaky. Out of sight, they are more apt to get into trouble. When you see red flags (beer cans in the garbage, texts left out to view on cell phones, cigarette butts, etc.), address these issues right away.
Be firm. Tweens slide into trouble one inch at a time. Put the brakes on right away and be firm, consistent, and predictable.
Share your good ideas. What has helped you and your tween?