As children grow up, so do we as parents. It’s a memorable journey for parents to see a child grow from a dependent and attention seeking baby to an independent adult. While children grow and learn and adjust to their environment, we as parents have to constantly adjust to the changes in the child’s behavior and demands of parenting during the entire journey of parenthood.
The most significant changes in a child’s behavior happen during the tween years (8-12 years of age), where the child begins gaining physical and mental maturity and starts to recognize and develop his/her own thinking and personality. S/he starts questioning everything that was earlier accepted by him/her. The child’s attention is now shifting towards the world outside home and at this stage s/he is seeking his/her own individuality. The age group of 8-9 years is also referred as the latency stage.
At this stage a child can behave childishly at one moment and quite mature the next, and it can get quite bewildering for parents. If the child doesn’t get good guidance and support at this important stage of life, the impact can be lifelong. So here are some points to pay attention to as parents of tweens:
- A child at this stage can understand his/her personality at a basic level and having a good self-esteem is very important. If a child is assertive and expresses feelings, is clear about their goals and what they need to do to achieve them, and good at expressing opinions, these are signs of good self-esteem.
- Tweens need a good circle of friends. As they develop their personality and interests, they would also develop in their social interactions. They would like to be an important part of a group of friends with similar interests. Parents may like to share their interests with their children and encourage them to recognize their own and share with friends.
- Sharing and keeping secrets is common between girls whereas boys like to make each other laugh and develop a sense of humor.
- They ask for independence and freedom at this stage. Parents worry as to how to give them their independence and protect them as well as at this stage children begin lying to their parents just to “feel” their new independence. Parents can draw a line as to how much lying to tolerate and when to confront.
- As they are building their sense of maturity and independence, they are also building a sense of responsibility. They expect parents to trust them and have confidence in them that they are capable of taking small decisions, are responsible enough to do their homework and clean their room without being asked.
- Because of the increased exposure through media and computers, tweens are maturing socially and have more understanding and curiosity about sexuality. They would be curious to know their body, ask about birth, reproductive organs and sex. If children do not feel comfortable with parents in talking about these topics, they would turn to their friends or older children. It might get difficult for parents to talk to children about this. It helps if parents do not react when children ask questions and calmly answer only as much as they need to know at their stage.
- The tween stage is also a stage when children reach puberty and the changes in their body can get confusing and strange for them. Its important for parents to be open for questions by their children and help them accept these changes and be comfortable with their changing body.
No matter what stage a child is at, s/he needs support and understanding of his/her parents/guardians. It may get puzzling for parents sometimes, but that’s ok until parents make conscious efforts to understand their child’s needs and work together in difficult situations.
Tweens What to expect from – and how to survive – your child’s pre-teen years by Andrea Clifford-Poston