Development stages tweens

The term ‘tween’ refers to young people aged ten to twelve who are between childhood and adolescence. Any parent raising a child of this age can attest to the challenges they face as their children move ahead into their teen years and ultimately, increased responsibility and independence.

In some ways, raising a tween is similar to raising a teen but this age range brings its own tests. Tweens are often anxious about what lies ahead over the coming few years and as parents, you can help to ease that transition.

What are some of my tween’s concerns?

Who your child is – their personality, likes and dislikes – will help to determine how you approach their ‘tweenhood’ but typically, tweens become increasingly trend conscious at this age. Some tweens may also feel that they ‘know it all’ and don’t need their parents’ guidance and support although this in fact is more about trying out new roles and identities to find their own way in life. Being liked and accepted by peers is also important to most tweens.

What can I do to help my tween?

  • Don’t take anything personally and ensure that you’re there to comfort and support them when needed – whatever their mood!
  • Make an effort to understand your tween’s social life by letting them know that they’re welcome to bring friends around for a meal or film.
  • Open up non-confrontational discussions about your tween’s hopes and aspirations for the future. This isn’t about ‘grilling’ them for information but more about taking a genuine interest in what’s important to them.
  • Nurture their interests even if you don’t share them. For example, you might dislike cooking but they’re a budding chef: go to the library with them and take out recipe books so that they can try new things – and it saves you cooking!

What are some of the influences on my tween?

These days, children are bombarded with content depicting role models who are carefree and physically attractive. Celebrities can have a big impact on tweens’ self-esteem and their view of their place in the world. Peer influences can also be powerful at this time and you may find that your tween goes along with the crowd even when they don’t want to. Tweens might also find school more stressful than they did when they were younger. At this age they might not want to appear to be the ‘teacher’s pet’ for fear of being teased or bullied and, as a result, their marks can drop.

Hormonal influences are also an unavoidable challenge of being a tween, affecting both moods and the way in which they see their bodies. Moodiness is common even if they’ve been very laid back in the past so it’s important not to take any of it personally! Impatience, anger, tearfulness or lashing out can cause them great confusion. One moment they feel like an adult with the same rights and privileges, while the next they may crave the protection of their parents’ love.

What can I do to help my tween?

  • Boost their confidence regularly by telling them why you appreciate them.
  • Encourage them to develop their talents. Whether they enjoy art, drama, writing or science and maths, find a local club or class through your library or youth club. Remember that many schools offer clubs for a variety of activities including debating, music and sports.
  • Talk openly about what they see online. That doesn’t mean that you have to check up on them but having conversations about the reality of people’s lives can allay a tween’s fears that they’re ‘not good enough’.
  • As a parent, it’s important to understand the importance of online safety; you’ll find lots of tips and information at UK Safer Internet Centre.

Why is my tween so protective of their privacy?

Your tween’s increasing desire for independence is linked to their need for privacy. Bedrooms may suddenly become ‘no go areas’ for parents and siblings, and you may also find that your tween isn’t entirely forthcoming about how they’re spending their time with friends. Secrecy is very frustrating but also important for the development of confidence and preparing to become a teenager. If you have concerns about any of their friends, don’t judge them – just ask what they like about that person, and if they feel good around them. Young people are smart, and they can make their own decisions, often independently of their parents.

What can I do to help my tween?

  • Allow for some privacy in keeping with their age and level of maturity. Asking them what they’re doing constantly will only create friction but do make it clear that their privileges can be revoked if ground rules, such as missing curfews or avoiding homework, aren’t followed.
  • Try and get to know your child’s friends’ parents by asking them around for a drink and a chance to get to know each other. Chances are other parents have the same concerns and questions you do.
  • Helping your tween find their way in life may be painful for parents, but it’s crucial that you support them to do this. Your tween may start to arrange outings to the park or cinema without consulting you first so having a discussion with them about rules, safety and transport is really important. Offer to drive them and pick them up (discreetly!) and agree that they’ll ring you to check in at some point when out and about. It’s also helpful to point out that while they’re free to see their friends, you expect to know where they are in case you need to get hold of them.

My tween is obsessed with technology!

It can be useful for your tween to have a mobile phone for reasons of safety, but bringing the phone to the dinner table or avoiding chores or homework because they prefer to speak to their friends is unacceptable.

What can I do about it?

  • If your tween’s phone usage is within reasonable boundaries (and only a parent can decide what’s acceptable for their child), leave them to it. Connecting with their friends is an important part of their growing up.
  • If you have concerns about the amount of time your tween is spending with technology, set clear boundaries. For example, no phones during meals or family outings. Remind them that having a mobile phone and internet access is a privilege – not a right.
  • You might also like to have a look at Childnet International for helpful information on internet usage and responsible phone use for young people.