Parenting tweens can feel like a circus! Juggling mood swings, independence, puberty, friendships, school and growth spurts at a time when our children seem to be growing up so fast but still needing a strong family base can feel even more daunting than those toddler tantrum years.
Parenting tweens seems to be a giant balancing act of keeping them close, while also letting them fly away to experience life and learn from their new found independence.
As I stumble through these years with my own kids, reading books and articles, and talking to other parents, I have found the following tips and suggestions are helping us navigate these new waters.
9 Top Tips for Parenting Tweens
1. Find Ways to Connect
It’s natural for tweens to spend more time away from their parents and family, with school, friends and other activities, but they also crave closeness and connection.
It may take a little more organisation and effort to connect with your tween but it is worth it. I suggest starting by taking an interest in something they like, but however you do it, making an effort to strengthen your bond with your tween now will stand you in good stead when you enter the teen years.
2. Talk and Listen
Talking to your tween is the best tool you have for teaching values, sharing important information and growing a strong bond. The more you talk with your kids, and the more you listen to them, the better prepared you will be for whatever pops up in the future.
3. Set Clear Logical Limits, Together
Despite the eye rolling and storming out, tweens still need their parents to set limits for their behaviour.
Power struggles and even consequences are less likely to be effective with this age group, but tweens are able to listen to rational explanations and even discuss issues if given a chance. Try to set clear, logical limits, together. Be reasonable, flexible and ask for your child’s input and you are more likely to get a positive result, even if they chuck a wobbly at first.
4. Pick Your Battles
It is no coincidence that parenting tweens seems a lot like parenting toddlers! Both age groups are going through lots of rapid changes which can be difficult for all involved. The advice we give to parents of defiant toddlers to ‘pick your battles’ is equally as effective for parents of tweens.
Think about what is really important to you and your family, and let the little stuff slide. Does it really matter if she goes out wearing those earrings?
And in the same vein, don’t fight all their battles for them. Sure, step in to help and support them through the hard stuff, but they need to fail and experience natural consequences to learn to take responsibility for themselves. Is it your problem or his if his homework is handed in a day late?
5. Expect More, Accept Less
With tweens swinging between ‘so very grown up’ and ‘still so little’ it can be hard to know what to expect in terms of behaviour and independence. A little trick I use is to expect a little more in terms of what they are capable of to give them a chance to grow and succeed, but also be ready to accept when they can’t quite manage as these things will change from day to day, moment to moment.
6. Know Their Friends
Have you noticed that what their friends are doing, wearing or saying has suddenly become super important? Friends and peer groups become much more influential at this age and peer pressure is likely to rear its head too. Get to know your tween’s friends, and their families if you can. Having a relationship with your kids’ friends can help you navigate through any tricky friend situations that may arise.
7. Don’t Ignore Pop Culture
Tweens are one of the most marketed to age groups, and sadly most popular culture pushes tweens to grow up too fast. Promoted role models are much older and more sophisticated, exposing them to ideas they may not be ready for. As tweens are trying to figure out who they are, and create their own sense of self, they can be easily influenced by this media and marketing.
Start brushing up on your pop stars and movies now so you at least have some idea what may be influencing your kids. They need you to help them work out what is, and isn’t, appropriate.
8. Looking After Themselves
Teach your tween to look after themselves. Explain why good hygiene, healthy eating habits, exercise, and getting enough sleep are important and find ways to make this work as part of your tween’s daily routine.
9. Be a Role Model
Now more than ever, the idea that I set the tone in my family seems so important. Tweens understand pretty much everything we say and do, and they are soaking up all that information and trying it on for size. Being a role model can be hard, and we all have bad days, but how we react to those difficult moments is probably the most important example we can provide our kids.
Look for the Positives
The more I read and talk about parenting tweens, and the deeper I get into the journey, the more I feel this time is a gift.
It feels like an in-between time. A time when my girls can understand so much more and I have the potential to teach them so many things, to really instill our family values, and to give them the strong foundation they need to grow into kind, thoughtful, confident adults, while they still care about my ideas and opinions!
It also feels like the time to really work on our relationship, to really build that closeness and connection that will hopefully keep us together through the rocky teenage years.
I see the tween years as the time to shower my kids with love and attention, to show them how proud I am of them, to remind them how strong and clever they are and how much they mean to me.
I don’t always get it right, but I am trying not to waste the tween years yelling, or worrying, or counting the number of times they roll their eyes, and instead make a real effort to connect and make a difference while I can.