PARENTING TWEENS – A DELICATE AGE THAT NEEDS CARE AND ATTENTION
Pre-adolescence, the “tween” years (roughly 8 to 12) is a time of monumental shifts in your child’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. It’s a scary time for kids & adults, when they need independence & start turning away. They rely on their friends more but still need you. They have many challenges & changes. Parents must significantly change the way they relate to their child, because it is not the same child as only a year or two ago.
Cognitive changes: Thinking processes completely change. Previously not caring too much, they are now very sensitive to what peers think. They need to fit in, practice comparisons and are very hurt when left out. Suddenly different viewpoints matter and tolerating opposing views must be mastered.
Physical changes: Girls now experience puberty much earlier, as do boys. These huge physical changes cause self-consciousness and self-esteem issues, as well as curiosity about sex.
Social Changes: Independence: Because they see themselves differently, tweens are progressively more and more identified with peers than family. Self-confidence asserts itself in good and bad ways. They may go out without telling anyone, increase eye-rolling, hide their phones and change passwords plus be more embarrassed by parents. Expect more self-confidence (in spurts) & attitude. Parents may be dropped from Facebook and other social media pages.
Social Hierarchy and Cliques: This is when bullying can become a big problem, as kids compare and target others. The tween may say s/he is fine but in fact will be angry, frustrated, grades may drop and the sense of safety and acceptance is gone. Even worse outcomes may occur. It is important to intervene with bullying immediately while modeling respectful, pro-active behaviors. Do not expect your tween to “get over it” or “work through it”.
Gender: Now the social media images of what a body “should” look like begins to cause problems. Girls’ self-esteem peaks at 9, decreasing sharply by 12 as they are sexualized and as images become the way they see and judge themselves. Boys receive equally damaging messages such as, a man mustn’t be vulnerable or show deep feelings such as sadness, jealously, love, compassion – as that is weak and “unmanly”.
Who Are You? Taking on different personas frequently as seen in dress, hair, attitudes, speech, humor changes. They need to fit in, but also explore who they want to be. This can be a very challenging time for parents.
Emotions: Expect intense swings of emotions & interpersonal relationships. Just when the tween’s brain becomes more sensitive to emotions in themselves and others, it has not developed enough to be able to regulate them. People and situations are met with extremes, such as the best friend ever is suddenly no good, as are sports, movies and food. And it may change back in 2 weeks.
Love, communication, patience and continually educating yourself as to what is really going on with your tween will help everyone. This is a time when therapy, either for your tween alone or with your tween and one or both parents can be very valuable.
By: Sharon Valentin0
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