Profile: The Tween Years

What are the tween years?

The tween years are those years between approximately 8 and 13 when a child is not yet a teen but no longer just a little kid. They are often overlooked by parents and experts, alike because they happen to fall between two very busy and exciting stages of life – early childhood and the teen years. But this is a tumultuous time for kids as they transition from childhood to the teen years. It is a time of extremes – emotions, fluctuations, expectations and responsibilities.

Characteristics of a Tween:

  • Tweens will often act like teenagers or even adults on minute while reverting to childish behaviors the next.
  • Tweens still like to play with toys but are more reserved about sharing this information with peers or parents.
  • Tweens usually buck physical affection from parents unless it is on their terms.
  • Tweens are more likely to question your ideas and values and compare them to the ideas and values of their peer group.
  • Tweens who were never particularly argumentative will start trying to negotiate and stand on their own.
  • Tweens are concrete, black-and-white thinkers. Finding the gray area may be painful or impossible for many tweens.
  • Tweens are notoriously superstitious, although often times their superstitions are privately held. This is the natural transition from the magical (i.e. the Tooth Fairy) thinking of childhood.
  • Tweens are quieter, sleep more and spend more time by themselves.
  • Tweens can possess more violent mood swings than their teenaged counterparts!

Importance of the Tween years:

The tween years set the stage for adolescence and adulthood. How a child traverses the tweens often predicts how he handles himself academically and emotionally in the future. The relationship you encourage now will lend you to a more open and trusted relationship in the future, as well. Tween parenting is very important!

Parenting Your Tween:

Although knowing what traits are common during this stage of development can be helpful, it shouldn’t be passed off as an excuse to let unhealthy behaviors continue. The parents of tweens have a few goals:

  • Teach your tween to work through their moods in a healthy and appropriate way.
  • Ask open ended questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or a “no” to keep dialogue flowing.
  • Don’t assume that your child is ready for teenaged responsibilities just because she often acts like one. Tweens are not teenagers and are often not ready for responsibilities such as staying home alone, surfing the internet without monitoring, going to the mall with friends unsupervised, dating, etc. Your tween will disagree!
  • Allow your tween to stretch his new-found voice by allowing him to negotiation and debate important issues and considering his point of view. You may be surprised that he is right and makes good points far more often than you might consider.
  • In the end, you are the adult and it is important for tweens to remember that you have final say-so.
  • Offer your tween opportunities to stretch and grow and earn trust by giving small responsibilities and increasing them as they are successfully met. This is a great time for your tween to take on a paper route or routine household job. Let your tween experience the results if she messes up in order to encourage accountability that will be desperately required to traverse the upcoming teen years.
  • Continue to offer “childish” opportunities as your tween is open to them – wrestle with each other, watch G-rated movies together, indulge the desire for “transitional toys” such a building toys, video games and sports equipment for boys or arts and crafts and beauty kits for girls as these help tweens straddle the fence without losing too much balance.
  • Enjoy these last few years of early childhood closeness because it will change dramatically when the tween years are over.