03 MAR

Aged between nine and thirteen, tweens are not quite a teenager and not a child anymore. Your once adorable, cuddly little child, who loved a kiss and a cuddle, suddenly woke up one morning and is different.

They are still wonderful and funny, but… there is an eye roll, talking has becoming grunting, they often smell, and prefer the company of the iPhone to yourself. Parents may wonder, “Was it something I did?”, “What happened to my happy, easy-going child?” The answer is Early Adolescence happened, also known as the Tween years. It is simple and as complicated as that.

The good news is that they do eventually become humans again with normal conversations and emotions. The more challenging news is that you are on a rollercoaster ride of hormones and emotions for probably another five to six years. Girl’s brains will fully develop around 23-25 years of age and boys about 28 years.

The important news is that the tween years are really important in their development as social and emotional adults. They are the only ones who can do it, with you as parents as their guides and helpers.

Dr Arne Rubenstein believes there are five essential things we need to teach our tween so our boys become good men, and our girls become…

5 Essential Skills

  1. Resilience – how to bounce back when things are difficult
  2. Problem solving – solving problems creatively on their own, and when to ask for help
  3. Collaboration – working with peers and adults
  4. Privileges and Responsibility – privileges aren't rights, a phone is a privilege not a right
  5. Emotional (EQ) and Social Intelligence (SQ) – one of the biggest predictors of success in adulthood
    I will add another:
  6. Compassion – how they see others and the world around them

Parents, particularly during this period have to learn to let go, to have space, to take risks in a safe way, allow them to fall, make mistakes, experience consequences and not rescue them all the time.

Parents and other adults need to help them to come up with solutions to problems by guiding, but not telling or controlling.

Tweens need to be taught negotiation skills; do not always tell them they have to do it your way.

They need help to see situations from another person’s perspective; “How does your friend feel when this happened? What do you think they need now/ Do you think maybe they were having a bad day?”

As parents, the most important thing is that you love your tween as they are (and show them). Spend time with them, laugh, cry, LISTEN, and drop everything and be there. Hug your tween and love the stage they are in, because although it is tough, there are always beautiful moments as well- we just need to look and listen to find them.

Written by Jodie Humphreys (BAPsych, GradDipPsych, MAPS) Psychologist, Nowra Anglican College.

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