The transition into the tween years can be challenging for both you and your child, as she undergoes the process of maturing both physically and mentally. Here are a few tips for parents who are guiding their child through this journey from childhood to young adulthood.
Even though your child may want more freedom, she still needs your guidance
As your child works her way into the tween and teen years, you will notice her cognitive abilities grow. Brain development continues during adolescence and is completed at about age 23. However, the area of the brain that guides decision-making and self-regulation, called the prefrontal cortex, develops more slowly than other parts of the brain during this time. Add to this the peer pressure experienced both at school and on social media, and the result can be some risky behavior. Engage in conversation with your tween about the decisions she is making, and when possible coach her through the decision-making process. Head off any dangerous risks or unacceptable behavior but do allow her to take some healthy risks. Your tween needs you to slowly adjust her boundaries and give her some freedom to begin defining her identity and exploring new interests.
Your tween’s interests are likely to change as she encounters the new opportunities available at middle school, such as clubs and sports. As you increase your tween’s freedom to allow her to follow new interests and form new friendships, explain to her that with more freedom comes more responsibility. Specify the new boundaries you are setting and hold her accountable for her decisions. It can be frustrating to watch your tween make mistakes, like spending all her allowance at once instead of budgeting. However, allowing her to take healthy risks and make mistakes, helps grow the decision-making skills she will need as an adult.
Physical and mental changes of the tween years can fuel an emotional storm
Your tween may be happy and full of love one minute and then turn moody the next. Help temper mood swings by encouraging your tween to get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet. To reduce any anxiety about the body changes that come with puberty, explain these changes to your tween and provide tips on how to take care of her body.
Creating a structured routine for your tween also reduces stress by providing a framework she can use to manage her time. However, some free time to hang out with friends and relax should be built into this schedule. If your tween seems stressed due to an overly full schedule and never seems to have any downtime, consider asking your tween to choose an activity to drop.
Friendships are important to tweens but difficulty with relationships can stir up quite a storm. Keep an eye on who your tween is friends with, and provide the guidance she needs to work through any ‘friend troubles’, including bullying. If she has a social media account, monitor it for any cyberbullying. Coach your tween on how to deal with bullies and step in if the situation requires it.
Spend time having fun
Keep your relationship with your tween strong by scheduling fun activities and showing interest in the new hobbies she is exploring. Schedule annual events, like a family vacation that your child can look forward to. Feeling loved and connected to her family builds your tween’s feeling of acceptance and self-esteem, which will help her weather the stormy tween and teen years.