When embarking on this parenting gig most people brace themselves for some tough times.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of childhood stages that have a bad rap – there’s the relentless newborn days (or daze!) and the terrible toddler years. Then there’s the heartbreak of sending them off into the big wide world when they start school, and of course, the most dreaded stage of all – the teenage years.
Based on these widely held truths, one would assume there is a reprieve of sorts when your child is between 8 and 12 years old. A golden age nestled between the fledgling starting school and the smelly, attitude packed teenager.
But it’s a trap for unwary players!!
This isn’t some innocuous, cruisy time where parents can relax. Far from it. This is yet another tumultuous state of flux where the child you once knew and adored starts to morph into a complete stranger.
You have entered the Tween Zone.
Honestly, it slapped me in the face. Took me completely by surprise. I had always thought of tweens as cute teenage wannabes, simply mimicking older kids in dress and music taste, while still remaining their adorable selves.
How wrong can one person be?!
In case you haven’t got to this stage yet, here are some things no one probably ever told you about parenting a tween:
1. Puberty starts EARLY! Even before other obvious changes, those hormones start raging. Not necessarily in a sexual way but triggering other emotional changes which can be very hard for both parent and child to deal with. Expect to have a very conflicted little person on your hands.
2. They grow. Quickly. It gets expensive. Fast.
3. When you look at them you can see the teenager they are going to be and the small child they were. It’s a weird juxtaposition and they feel this too.
4. They easily become entangled in issues they aren’t well equipped to deal with. This is because the Tween Zone is a very uneven playing field with some kids developing much faster than others.
5. Their self-esteem can take a battering early (often in large part due to point 4 above).
6. They loose their innocence much faster than you can imagine (also often due to point 4 above).
7. They start smelling much earlier than expected.
8. Sometimes they can be real jerks! The attitude of a teen but the immaturity of a child can be a difficult combo for everyone.
9. They will start talking in a weird language – most probably learnt off some hip YouTuber. They will say things like “lit”, “snatched” and “GOAT”. You will start to wonder at what point you’ll need to engage an interpreter to talk to your own child.
10. You will ask yourself constantly: “Where did my baby go?”
These are just some of the many tough adjustments that come with parenting a preteen. Communication is key, as is establishing boundaries and a strong relationship built on trust so that you can help them navigate this tricky time. And those trickier times ahead.
But the best unexpected thing about parenting a tween? Is when they remind you that they really are still your baby by giving you a big hug at the end of the day.