As your child grows, you can expect more than their size to change. Your child’s emotional and physiological changes can be startling as they move toward adolescence. This awkward time is disorienting for them and but can also be challenging for you as a parent. What can you expect during this transition and how can you cope?
More independence. As a young child, your son or daughter may have been a constant companion, never leaving your side and always seeking to spend time with you. When they enter their tweens (between 10 and 12 years of age), you may start noticing them wanting to spend more time away from you including wanting to spend time with their friends or pursue extracurricular activities. It may feel like you are being rejected by your child but this is a part of their natural progression.
Changing interests. Your son or daughter may have desired to play with dolls and action figures but now prefer video games and sports. Or you might notice that their desire for soccer has given way to the pursuit of computer programming. Tweens are figuring out their way in the world and so they not only may lose interest in things they did as a younger child but they may have alternating pursuits as they discover other interests. Rather than get frustrated, help them become well-rounded by exposing them to new things.
Body changes. The most uncomfortable changes your young one is likely to experience are changes to their bodies. They may begin to develop faster or slower than their peers, feeling awkward and out of place. They may experience sexual interest and be exposed to inappropriate content by peers at school. This is an entirely new experience so educating your tween on what they can expect to happen with their bodies, having discussions about sex and responsibility, and helping them navigate hormonal and emotional changes can hopefully support them through this challenging time.
Back talk and rebellion. No parent likes having their child be disobedient or disrespectful. When your son or daughter skips chores and has a snippy attitude when you approach them about it, remember that part of their development includes testing boundaries and challenging your authority. To help communicate expectations with your teen, provide them “behavior contracts” that include reasonable options that allow them freedom of choice and clear consequences. With clear communication and a loosening of your grip, you can help your tween develop their reasoning and decision-making abilities.
Added responsibility. Unlike elementary school where children work with one teacher throughout the day, middle schoolers usually have several teachers, each with their own teaching style, homework and expectations. This leaves young people under immense pressure to perform. This will cause additional concern if there are learning challenges or lack of resources and security at home. This, coupled with peer pressure and bullying can increase feelings of depression and anxiety, leaving your son or daughter with overwhelming and unfamiliar angst. Keep the lines of communication open with your young one by using travel and meal times positive and focused on what’s going on with them. Provide practical help so they sense your love and support.
Of course, dealing with your tween will present unique challenges that you feel unequipped to handle. For more support in raising and happy and healthy child, reach out to us for help.