The tween years (10, 11 and 12 years old) are a difficult time of transition for both parents and children. Not quite a teenager but growing more independent and mature, finding the right balance for a parent when dealing with their growing child can be hard.
It's an important time to let them test themselves and learn whilst feeling protected but also it's an opportune time to teach kids the life skills they’re going to need to be successful teenagers and beyond. Here are some tips for helping them through this important transitional time:
Diet and Nutrition
Your child’s nutrition is important to their overall health and well-being. Limit high sugar and high-fat foods and teach them about the importance of nutrition and how it affects every part of the body, skin, mental and physical development. It's normal for tweens to experience fluctuations in their appetite, growth spurts can lead to an increase in appetite. Keep the cupboard full of nutritious snacks and encourage healthy eating alongside the odd treat.
It is recommended that tweens get at least one hours of physical activity a day. Tweens should participate in bone-building activities such as basketball, netball and running but anything that interests them and gets them out in the fresh air or running around is good! Team sports are also good for building a sense of working together and being part of a united group.
Incorporate physical activity into your family life - go for family walks, play sports together. Your child will learn healthy habits from watching you so make sure you are a good role model when it comes to physical activity.
Body image issues are common during the tweens years So it’s important to emphasize exercising to stay healthy and to build strong bones, rather than to lose weight or look better.
Tweens enjoy spending increasing amounts of time socialising with their peers. While they’re still interested in family time, they might be eager to ditch their family plans if a friend calls. That doesn’t mean you should give up on family fun nights, however. Your tween will likely enjoy special time with you. Whether you play board games, participate in physical activities, or go out for the day, doing activities together can be a good way to bond.
Your tween may also become disrespectful at times and need discipline. They might insist they know everything or say they'll do their chores but only on their own terms. Trying to assert themselves is their way of gaining some independence.
You can give them an opportunity to develop autonomy by offering them two choices. Ask “Do you want to clean your room before dinner or after?” Just make sure you can live with either choice. Appropriate chores could include emptying the dishwasher, washing windows, mopping floors, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom.
A chore chart could be a helpful way to remind your tween what you expect of them. It can reduce the urge to nag them or repeatedly remind them to do the chores. Offer incentives and rewards when they are behaving responsibly. You might link their chores to privileges, such as screen time, or you might offer an allowance.
Many tweens are using social media, have their own smartphones, and regularly use the internet. And while there are games, websites, and apps that can provide educational content, digital devices can also present a lot of risks for tweens.
From cyberbullies to online predators, the unfiltered world of the web can be dangerous for young people. Tweens who surf the web without adult supervision are likely to come across adult content.
Establish clear rules that will protect your tween’s privacy. Tell your child that it’s never OK to share their current location, home address (or anyone else’s address), social security number, or names of family members. If you allow your child to use social media, choose a nickname that is different from their real name. Research the potential risks and benefits of any social media site before allowing your child to join. Explain what your child should do if she ever receives messages that make them feel uncomfortable or if she comes across content that is offensive. Request that they come to you and tell you what happened.
Most tweens begin to experience puberty. For some, this can be an exciting time. For others, puberty can be scary and confusing. Talk openly with your child about their changing body. Invite them to ask questions. Holding ongoing conversations about puberty and sexuality will help your tween feel more comfortable. Some tweens are showing interest in romantic relationships and dating too. Make sure to hold plenty of conversations about healthy relationships.
The tween years may be slightly harder to manage but it is also an exciting time when you see your child start to turn into the teenager and person that they are going to become. You may be surprised by their new independence and maturity and enjoy the changing relationship you have with them.