Tween years can be a construction zone with the need for reduced speed, maneuvering cones, twists, turns, and bumpy roads. Sometimes the lane narrows and you have take things one at a time. My first tween, my son, was relatively easy. He was my little-bit-older boy who asked lots of questions. He still played with lots of toys and I could buy his clothes. There were few secrets and we hung out all the time. I’d say that when he became thirteen is when there was a dramatic change. Not so for my daughter. Changes, little and big, have been coming and coming. Here are some of them:
Infant years were a blur of diaper changes, cuddles, sleepless nights, giggles, and marking off those infant milestones. Toddler years were fun but also super fast. I was running after my kids to get them dressed, stop messes, keep them safe or from following random strangers. Preschool and early elementary school years were slower. I loved seeing their personalities develop and watched as they developed friends. But with tweens, I want time to deal with harder issues and situations. Life isn’t always fair or pleasant and tweens are realizing it. They need time to process that. Change, even for the better, takes time to digest. Also, hormones and body changes are taking place and tweens need to grow into that. I don’t want to be so busy I overlook problems or issues right in front of me. I also want to enjoy this time. Maybe I can learn a Tik Tok dance or try one tiny cruise on that skateboard!
Maneuver Around the Cones
My daughter uses the term “toxic” quite a bit. I didn’t know that was applicable to people at her age. But toxic people exist even in her almost eleven-year-old world. Sometimes they are easy to steer away from and can be seen from a distance. Sometimes it’s not so easy. Poor body image is another cone to avoid. I feel like I need to help her navigate this cone. I know girls suffer from this more than boys. However, my son was “big for his age” and we also maneuvered this cone. Other cones that might appear: conformity, tolerance, and more. Watch out for unexpected ones around those curves!
Watch Out for the Twists and Turns
Remember when your toddler loved bananas and hated them the next day? You haven’t seen anything yet until you see a tween turn on a dime. Once a friend comments on that “fire”outfit or fun activity it can be seen in a completely different light. Best friends can become foes. Your tween, who loved reading/school/math, might suddenly do poorly in school. These twists and turns might be a problem, a personality change, or just an attempt to fit in. Try to understand the “why” rather than just react. You have to pick your battles and not alienate your tween. Some twists and turns might be fun, like a new hairstyle or a new fashion sense that comes around.
Be Ready for Bumpy Roads
No matter what you say it might be the “wrong” thing in your tween’s ears. They might lash out at you. It’s the safe thing to do because you have always been there for them. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to take, I know. These bumpy roads might be silence, isolation, or tears and anger towards someone else. Hormones are kicking in, too. Hold that steering wheel and stay on the road. Be there for your tween even while they push you away. Adding a funny twist to a fight or a change of scenery can do wonders. Bring out the old photos, play your old music at full volume, or go for a day trip somewhere new.
Tweens want and need to do things on their own even if you don’t advise it or it worries you. Do they want to try out for a sport or a play? It might not seem like the best fit for your child. But we learn from our successes and our failures. There might be a friend that you aren’t keen on. Unless it is a real danger, I’d hang back and let your tween navigate that friendship. At this age, gaining independence and confidence in their actions is important. Letting them spend their own money on things they want is an example. Going somewhere, within reason, on their own or with just a friend might be another example. Step back and watch them in their new project. Enjoy a moment to yourself while they do their own thing for a while.
My tween and I enjoy time together. But I know she already has secrets from me and I heard her tell a friend that “my mom can be sooo annoying.” This summer she has been allowed to ride further on her bike alone. I bit my lip when she bought products from Ulta with her own money and her clothes shopping cart was full of items that were all her. I’m navigating this construction zone and hoping my driving skills will keep us both more or less on the road. I’m also enjoying the ride, even if I do have to swerve sometimes!