I have found myself back in the tween phase as I parent my second child. With my daughter, there was a lot I learned about this phase. I am a strong believer in the fact that the tween phase is one of the hardest when it comes to parenting. They are between childhood and teen years with desires to be both. I wanted to share some of the tips and tricks that help us through the tween season.
How to handle the tween phase of parenting
**Disclaimer – All families are different. I am far from an expert. I will say that these approaches have helped us. If you don’t agree with all of them, that’s completely ok. Find things that will help you on your journey.
5 Things tweens need from you
Your tween needs you to show up in different ways than they did when they were younger. Don’t let this new phase stress you though. It’s a beautiful season and one you can handle. We found that a few things really helped us in this season. Here are a few things to consider.
- Listen more than you speak. – Your tween will share the things that are relevant to them in their world. Listen twice as much as you speak at this age. They aren’t necessarily looking for advice. They’re looking to share their world with you.
- Admit when you’re wrong. – Fairness is a theme that will be so prevalent at this age. While life isn’t fair, it is so important at this age to admit you’re wrong when you are. They are shaping their view of justice and the world around them.
- Choose your battles. – There’s a strong chance your tween will choose this age to test their boundaries. This is a good time to decide which issues are worth discipline and which are worth letting go of. This might mean letting them dye their hair or choose the music you don’t love. Choose to lose some battles so that you can be firm with the big issues.
- Have the big talks. – This is the time to talk in more detail about sex, drugs, and mental health with your tween. They will encounter these topics in school. Don’t be afraid to have these talks with them at home first.
- Respect their boundaries. – Your child may start to set new boundaries with you. This might mean no more hugs, not wanting to do an old favorite activity, or wanting to spend more time in their rooms. When your child sets a safe boundary that will not harm them, you want to honor their boundaries. They are learning to protect a part of themselves.
Teaching tweens social skills
This is the age when talking never seems to end. They have experienced so much of their world and they have so much to say about it. It’s also the age when they might unintentionally be unkind or snap more than usual. This has a lot to do with finding their own voice and with hormones. Teaching social skills in the tween stage can be a game-changer for them when you reach the teen stage! Here are a few to focus on.
- Tone – One of the biggest issues at this age is tone. As they get older, they might not even realize that their tone of voice communicates more than their words do. We have actually recorded our kids speaking to us and played it back for them to help them understand the tone they’re using. Before moving to discipline ask, “Do you realize you are yelling/snapping/… at us?” Sometimes they don’t and this can serve as a teaching moment.
- Friendships – At this age, all of their peers are going through a lot of the same changes. This can lead to some awkward social interactions. Have conversations about their friendships. Give them an open door to discuss conflicts and social interactions with you. It will help them to navigate friendships that include more mature topics.
- Interrupting – This age often feels like a repeat of the toddler years. Kids get so excited to share what they’re thinking of that they often forget to wait on others to finish speaking. This is a good age to work on the importance of listening and letting others speak. The rule we typically introduce is the 3-second rule. When you want to speak, count to three first in your head when someone stops speaking. Then you can start speaking.
Don’t forget hygiene and life skills!
As tweens get older, they want more independence. It’s a beautiful age for that as they need you less and less. It’s also the age for smelly armpits, acne, and frustration over not knowing how to do things. Taking the time now to work on these skills can be a huge help for them. Even better, it will help them to feel confident in their independence. Here are a few suggestions.
- Have a talk about hygiene. – This can include using a hygiene checklist or be an ongoing conversation about what they need most. Pack things in their backpacks such as a brush, deodorant, and menstrual supplies so they are prepared for any situation.
- Prioritize life skills education – Life skills are so important as your child works their way towards adulthood. Taking the time to each them a variety of life skills will help them to have a firm foundation as they head into adulthood. (Check out this life skills list for ideas on what you should be working on.)
My most important point!
I saved this for last but it is so important. At this age your tween will do all they can to test boundaries, push you away, try to get your attention, and more. This is the time to really lean in. Be present. Be involved. Show up and show them that on their hardest days they are still loved and they still matter. The most powerful thing to say to a tween is “I still love you.”