TWEEN. I guess (according to my daughter) I have one of these now. Tween is loosely defined as that age between being a little kid and a teenager, some books say starting around 9 through 12. Having a new 9 year old, she has informed me that she is now a TWEEN and “wanted to be this for her whole life!” and, though I am NO expert, I have researched some and experienced a few things so that I feel mildly warranted to give advice, at least based on our situation. I kid with my husband that a tween is essentially a whole different breed of human, not like you and me. They see things, hear things and experience differently than you and I do. There is no real logic in how they behave, so don’t try and understand it. You just have to wade very carefully through the insanity to find your way to your child, that same child you carried for 9 months, that once followed you around everywhere babbling “mama”, that now thinks you are the most amazing mother and then the single.worst.mother.ever.in.the.whole.wide.world in the same breath.
Here are some things you can expect from this magical age: (and I use the word “magical” loosely)
Their mood swings will be nothing that you have ever experienced, at least for girls. I have no experience with a tween boy yet, so I cannot confirm or deny that happening with them. Like I said, my daughter will love me so much and cannot stand me in the same moment, when I haven’t really done anything at all. There is no explaining it, you just have to roll with it and don’t take it personally. I have learned that I don’t see things the same way as she does. Remember being a teenager and that boy did/didn’t look at you or your BFF was/wasn’t nice to you and how happy/sad/mad/confused that made you? I know, it’s been a while, but try and channel that ancient part of you and remember how she is seeing things. They don’t make sense to us now because we have fully developed brains, but they do not. So don’t try and understand WHY she feels a certain way, just acknowledge how she’s feeling and be there to listen and try and reason with her, if you can. Raising a tween is not for the faint of heart; better toughen up your skin now.
They will want more technology. When my daughter turned 9, she instantly wanted an email address. Why? Who knows. I guess a few of her friends have one and she wanted one too. I figured it wasn’t that big of a deal and got her one that routes though my email so I can see anything she sends or received. Perhaps one day, she will want more privacy in that area, but today is not that day. Of course I trust her, I actually trust her the most of all of my kids haha. She is very responsible, but she is 9 and she doesn’t need that kind of privacy yet anyways, in my opinion. We have set the limit at only an email for any kind of social media for now. Of course she is asking me for an Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook account and I have promptly replied NO. Someday, sure. Today? No way. So if your child wants more technology, be sure and talk about staying safe online and have an open line of communication to watch for any signs of cyberbullying or anything naughty. For more tips on kids staying safe online, check out this whole post I wrote on it.
Now you will have to understand that tech. You need to stay up on the latest technology or your tween will own you. Password protection, parental controls, boundaries, monitoring, rules, and limitations are the name of the game when your tween is ready for that phone or a email account. You taught your baby to sleep through the night and pee on the potty, right? Now it’s time for you have to do the same with the internet.
They will want more responsibilities. The day my daughter turned 9 (I don’t know why she felt this was such a turning point in her life, but she did) she not only wanted that email address but she wanted to be able to do more things “on her own”. I had her make me a list of the things and we sat down together and decided which were appropriate now, and which were not. Walking next door to her friends house without me? Yes. Riding her bike around the block with her friends? Sure. Going up to the store alone? Umm, no. Her own cell phone? Think again kid. I explained why the things we said yes to were ok and why the things we said no to we not. We are blessed to live in a nice small and quiet neighborhood, so I don’t mind her and her bestie running back and forth alone to each others house, but today’s world is still a different world than you and I grew up in, so there’s a big fat NO to her walking up to the store alone like I certainly did at the age of 9. But in the good words of Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” so with every big kid thing she wanted, I explained that I was expecting more of her around the house. She knows what jobs she needs to do, on top of her school work, expected reading and soccer commitments, and she is aware that if the jobs she is require to do do not get done, then she can buhhh-bye to that email and iPad mini.
They will have those “body changes”. Yikes, we haven’t gotten there yet, but I know it’s coming. I am still formulating a plan on how to approach that one, so stay tuned to that. One thing I have been talking to her about is taking care of her skin and hair. I wanted her to know how important it is to do that now so she doesn’t get old wrinkly skin like me (wink wink), so I bought her some of her own skin and hair supplies for her to use on her own. I wrote a whole post on Tween skin and hair care on Daily Mom, if you want to read more about that!
They can dish it out, but they can’t take it. With all of the sass and attitude you get from your tween, it’s hard to remember that they are still so little. Try to keep level headed (it’s HARD) and remember that you are the grown up. Don’t respond the same way or use sarcasm to belittle them. It will hurt their feelings and, at this age, that is quite easy to do. They are learning their problem solving and conflict resolution skills from you, so model what’s appropriate. If I feel myself wanting to fly off the handle with her (which is easy to do, trust me) my go-to is just to send her to her room for a bit for both of us to take a few minutes to calm down. Then we can hash out whatever the issue is more peacefully.
They aren’t you. As much as we’d like to mold them into our perfect little human beings, modeled after our own image, we cannot. All kids are their own people, tweens are just wanting to begin to show that. Take their opinions into account when it comes to things about them, like music, clothing, room decorations. Of course that doesn’t mean they get free rain to do whatever they want, but if they want to wear the pink fuzzy sweater that you couldn’t dare imagine with the sparkle leopard print leggings (true story) that’s OK. Tweens are people in their own right, not an extension of you. Accept this now and save on therapy later- womp!
They still need a lot of sleep. Don’t let them fool you, they need a full night’s sleep. My daughter needs between 10-12 hours of sleep or else she is even more moody than normal, if that’s even possible!
Their friends are becoming more influential. This is a scary thing, but part of growing up. Try and wade your way through the emotion ocean and stay connected with your tween. Be interested in what they are reading, listening to, what they are doing at school and in their sports. Keep them busy with fun activities/sports/clubs so they don’t have too much down time. Like the old saying goes “Idle hands do the Devil’s work”, it’s true with kids. Bored kids are troubled kids and you don’t want a troubled kid. Keep them busy with fun stuff, interesting activities and stay involved in their life…but still give them some space too. Does that sound confusing? Yes, that’s because it is. Tweens are confusing.
Lastly, remember that they are truly “in-between”. One moment they may be playing with dolls and the next may call that stuff “baby stuff”. In one breath they say they want the world to leave them alone and in the next they may be sad because no one wants to play with them. To raise a tween, you have to be a flexible noodle and learn to ride these waves of emotion and confusion and show her that you are always there to listen, comfort and cuddle. I want my daughter to know that she can always trust me, no matter WHAT, forever. There may come a day where she says to me that she hates me, but I want her to know that I love her, even if she doesn’t say it. (She still does now thankfully and I truly hope she never says she hates me!!) Overall: Be there. Be present. Listen. Build up her self esteem. The whole world is waiting to break them down, be the one who builds them up.