Ask any parent what the hardest age range is and they will all tell you that it’s when your kids are moving between preteens and tweens. This time period is one of the most challenging for parents because your kids are growing up extremely quickly. They seem to go from a small little child to someone that’s way more grown-up.
Consequently, you’re left thinking where has my 9-year-old son gone?! Or, what has happened to my sweet little 9-year-old daughter? They’ve entered middle school, puberty is beginning, and you’re in for a tidal wave of change. There is good news on the horizon, however! If you can make it through the preteen and tween era, parenting becomes much easier. The question is, how do you manage this period of your kid’s life?
Well, here are some tips to help you learn how to be a better parent when you’ve got preteens and tweens:
Expect to be rejected
A bit of a harsh thing to start, but we may as well get the big guns out of the way. Yes, your children are going to reject you more and more when they enter this stage of their lives. They’re not teenagers just yet, which is why many parents struggle with this newfound rejection. In your mind, your kids are still your babies – and they always will be. You want to spend as much time with them as you possibly can, but you have to understand the reality of the situation. Preteens and tweens are starting to form friendship groups that could last all the way to college and beyond. They’re beginning to be more socially independent, and you should encourage this.
Let them spend time with their friends; don’t be too restrictive over them. Of course, be sure you monitor what they’re doing and stay in contact with their friends’ parents. You don’t want to let them run wild, but giving them a slight bit of independence and not forcing them to hang out with you will be a big move.
For starters, it creates trust between you and your child. Secondly, it can actually make them want to spend time with your organically. Most kids reject their parents in this stage of their lives because they feel like you’re forcing yourself upon them. If you give them a bit of freedom to hang with their friends, they’re more likely to not kick up a fuss if you have to go for the odd family day out.
Make an effort for quality time
Following on from the previous point, you should definitely make an active effort to spend quality time with preteens and tweens. Again, don’t be overbearing and force yourself on them every day. But, once or twice a week, do something with your kids. Even if you’re sitting down watching a Netflix show together; it’s better than nothing.
Go out for coffee or to see a film at the cinema – do things your child will enjoy doing, and it gives you a chance to talk. If you establish this routine from an early age, it will be something they look forward to doing. It will also help you create a bond where the two of you can talk openly about things.
Ask them about their day, ask them how school is going, etc. You want them to feel comfortable enough to open up if things aren’t going well. As a result, you’re able to support them through anything, and they will know you’ve got their back.
Don’t judge them
Parents have a bad tendency to judge their children too harshly. This starts when they enter the preteen/tween era and begin trying new things. Kids go through phases, and this is usually where some of the big phases begin. It might mean that your child grows their hair a certain way or likes to wear specific clothes and listen to certain music genres.
The worst thing a parent can do is judge their child for things like this. Remember, you went through different phases when you were this age! If your child is going through a phase, let them go through it. Don’t judge, don’t make comments; allow them to flourish and find themselves. After all, that’s what growing up is all about; discovering who you are.
You’ll find that most kids with judgemental or strict parents struggle to really find themselves. It can lead to many years of depression and anxiety as they constantly worry about what their parents think of them. If you take a step back and let your kids be kids, it will be so much better for both them and you. This could also set them up for a much better teenagehood.
Staying on this topic, you should actively encourage your children to try as many things as possible. For instance, it’s a very good idea to subvert typical gender norms. Let your daughter grow up playing sports; don’t force your kids to do things that are stereotypically done by their gender.
Start the awkward conversations
Yes, it’s time for the awkward conversations about the birds and the bees. No parent enjoys giving this talk as it can be painful for everyone. You also might think this is too young to start talking about sex with kids, but it isn’t. As preteens and tweens, they are going to start seeing changes in themselves and the people around them. The worst thing that can happen is a child doesn’t understand what is going on.
Thankfully, we live in a world where there are loads of great resources to help you with this. Give them a talk yourself, but encourage them to watch YouTube videos and other things that talk about specific topics. Educating your kids on puberty and what’s going to happen is the best way to make it less of a shock to them.
There’s no doubt that good parenting during this period will make your life easier when your kids are teenagers. The reason many parents struggle with teenage children is that they kept treating them like babies when they were 11, 12, etc. Use the tips above, and it will be a lot easier to handle your preteens and tweens.