Pre-teens can be a challenging time for both parents and children. Tweens (as they are commonly known) are not little kids anymore, but they are not fully grown adults either. They have their own opinions and they have their own ideas of what’s right or wrong, However , they still need to be guided and supported in order to grow into well-adjusted adults. In this blog post, we’ll explore 14 essential tips for parenting of pre-teens.
Tip #1 Allow them some independence
These are the years when your tweens are exploring their independence and this season is mostly interpreted or perceived as rebellion.
They may start to question most of what you say, refuse to do chores or homework,
They may start to experiment with things they shouldn’t be experimenting with.
Most of what they are doing is perceived as ” I don’t need a parent, I can do this life thing on my own”
Even during such times they have a need they are not willing to acknowledge, the need for parental love and protection, do not leave them to themselves.
Allow your pre teen to gain some Autonomy
They might start having personal secrets, things they just don’t want to share , even if they are not harmful things , don’t push them away by being too inquisitive.
What is the best way to allow your pre adolescent to gain autonomy?
Allow them to make decisions about their hairstyles , their room arrangement , decorations, what the family should eat for dinner, an outfit to go to a shopping center and more.
Why is it important for children to have autonomy?
Decision making gives them a sense of control , and that is all that they are basically pushing for, so grant it on a silver plate.
It gives them necessary skills to navigate their environment, understand their bodies and most of what concerns them. Most importantly autonomy breeds confidence.
Allow your tweens to explore while also ensuring that they are safe.
Common questions parents ask when their kids need autonomy
- What happened to my cute little boy? Why is he becoming so indifferent?
- Why is he turning to be this stubborn and disrespectful?
- Do I still mean anything to him?
- Does he still need me?
- What should I do? Should I let go?
- Why is he closing me out?
- Why has our relationship turned so cold?
- Should I force myself into his closed up space?
- Did I do anything wrong to push him away?
- Why is he being rude?
I can assure you there is no vindictive agenda, DO NOT take it personal, It is more about him than you.
Tip No #2 Communicate with your tween
We all know that communication is key for all healthy relationships, but the most important thing that we sometimes forget is that it is not only about communicating but how we communicate.
The how part is very critical depending on the target audience and we all know that communicating with tweens and teens is not a walk in the park. This is because our boy is evolving , there is a lot going on within and around him that he is still trying to make sense of.
how to communicate with this age group ( 10 – 12 year old).
- Adopt an inquisitive approach especially on critical topics (those topics that they find embarrassing i.e drugs, sex). Engage by asking questions than coming as an authority on the subject to give advice.
- Let your curiosity not push them away, respect the fact that they might not want or be ready to talk about what you are asking at that moment.
- Take a deep breath, keep calm, respond don’t react.
- Listen more than you talk, listen to understand.
- Refrain from offering quick solutions, listen more.
- Eye contact is not always the best, talk while walking or driving, sometimes even texting is better.
- Validate their emotions
- Model respect (through nonverbal expressions, tone, words you use).
- Grab opportunities for positive affirmations
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings and emotions without making any judgement.
- Keep your conversations age appropriate. (Always remember they are not adults yet).
Tip No #3 Set Boundaries
Rules for setting boundaries with tweens
- Boundaries should be discussed – Have their buy in.
- Reasons for the said boundaries should be made clear.
- Consequences for defied boundaries, should also be clear.
- Remember that it is normal for teens and tweens to test boundaries, don’t freak out, just follow through with a consequence and be consistent.
- Appreciate and reward the child when boundaries are adhered to.
- Don’t set too many boundaries at once
- Bring an understanding that boundaries evolve, because of factors like age, behavior, etc. So boundaries should or can be revisited.
- The nature of boundaries is that they will be adhered to, or defied so don’t see them as a magic formula for behavior change. Be firm and consistent
Examples of what your boundaries can cover
- Curfew – Whats the latest they can be home.
- Social media activities.
- General screen time .
- Respecting other people’s space in the house.
- General tone and attitude about how to relate with siblings and parents.
Tip #4Be aware of their online and social media activities
The online world can be very brutal to this developing minds, hence we need to hold their hands and ensure they tread carefully in that world.
As part of the set boundaries , let them know that they need to discuss with you as a parent before signing up to any social media platform, so that you can guide them properly.
Spare moments to watch their favorite you tubers, and shows on Netflix.
Remember the keyword there is FAVORITE, so negative and insensitive comments about what they like will not be embraced.
So then be cautious of HOW you comment and WHAT you say about what they like.
Do not forget your mission, you are there to help them make sense of that world, so do not be quick to condemn, but guide gently with an open mind.
Teach them about cyber bulling and about social media safety.
You are going to have to be very wise, gentle but firm and subtle in your approach for them to grant you access into their online world.
Approaching this from an authoritarian point of view will breed resistance in a long term.
This video is a brilliant insight on how to help your pre teens and teens relate to social media.
Tip No# 5 Be interested in what your tweens are interested in.
In most cases tweens and teens close up with the perception that they share no interests with their parents.
Hence they get too drawn to their peers because of the same perception.
Your greatest win as a parent will be in forming a solid friendship with your tween kids and one of the major characteristics of great friendships is that we share interest.
Be interested in their life outside of school. Be interested in who they are, not just how they behave. Be interested in their opinions and respect them Be interested in what makes then happy Be interested in what borders them Be interested in their social life
Spend quality time with them, quality should be determined by what is important to them, not to you.
Tip no#6 Be their go to person on sex and drugs topics
In simple terms be the first person that comes to mind when they need clarity or are just curious about these two topics.
Crucial question in the mouths ad minds of parents and authorities is, How can we protect youth from drugs?
This is the subject that most parents dread talking to their kids about but it needs to be done.
Most of the tips about how to communicate with your tweens above will apply.
Your tone and approach will guarantee your win or loss on this one.
The best time to talk about this topic is when they start asking questions. This makes it very easy for most parents.
how to approach the sex and drug topic with pre teens
Spot teachable moments. Such moments come randomly when you least expect. For example a scene on TV of someone using drugs – such moments presents an opportunity for a relaxed conversations on drugs.
Maximize on times when they are the ones asking the questions.
Check what they already know, hear the views on it and fill in the gaps.
Talking to the tweens about sex
Talk to them about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Talk to them about self-control.
Teach them about respecting other people’s boundaries. What are appropriate and inappropriate touches?.
Explain the responsibilities that comes with sex and the importance of waiting.
Explain to them how their bodies will change and why they are changing.
Cover the subject of pornography ,its addictive nature and long term impact.
Talking to tweens about drugs
Explain the addictive nature of drugs
Explain the negative impact drugs have on finances (there are always celebrities that you can site as examples).
Explain how drugs affect our bodies and brain functioning.
Alert them that maybe some of their peers are already using drugs.
Equip them with ready made responses on how to refuse joining their peers in using drugs.
Come up with different role plays of how they can be lured and how should resist.
Adopt a non-judgmental approach when discussing these sensitive topics
Do not lecture, have a conversation. Do not blame or sound suspicious.
Let them know that you come from a place of love, concern and understanding.
Emphasize that you are ready and open at all times to answer questions on these subjects.
These video presents practical approaches you can use in having these conversations.
Tip#7Keep an open dialogue about their social life
Know his friends Invite them in. Organize play dates for them. Take them out together if possible. Comfortably be part of their circle. Because when you are within the circle you can correct behaviors, perceptions and opinions better Better inside than outside.
Tip#8 Teach them about consent
Define what consent is.
Explain the importance, the discussion should be easier if you have previously involved him in the discussion about boundaries.
Make them understand that just as you have set boundaries with them, all relationships thrive on clear boundaries.
Nibble on the video below where the subject of consent is thoroughly explained.
Tip#9 Create opportunities for voluntary work in their community
Benefits of voluntary work on Pre Teens
- It enhances self esteem because of the value they see themselves adding to others.
- It shapes their perspective of life from a different angle.
- It helps and teaches them to connect with different people
- It develops new skills i.e communication, leadership, interpersonal skills, team work and more.
- It builds empathy
- It brings contentment and fulfillment.
- It’s an antidote for selfishness.
Tip#10Be a good role model to your Tweens
We all want our kids to behave, to excel and to make us proud.
Ask yourself the following questions and adjust where necessary
Am I worthy of imitation? Have I set good standards What about my routines? And my use of language? Is my integrity in intact? • Can your child look into your day to day life, and learn empathy, kindness, respect, importance of boundaries, assertiveness , honesty, hard work, healthy fun. Can he learn how to say sorry and thank you just by looking at you? What about your relationship with food. And your relationship with your body? and , and....
Tip #11 Allocate Your Pre Teens chores and responsibilities
How does chores and responsibilities shape your tween?
Chores make kids feel more competent/capable Chores teaches Self Reliance Chores teach or enhances team work Relieves your hands for me time Chores build strong work ethic Chores are one of the best ways to teach life skills Chores develop organizational skills Chores teaches work and play balance
Our kids develop differently . Please refer to the post here on more about the benefits of chores and responsibilities and also for chore ideas by age.
Tip#12 Appreciate and affirm them
The world outside is cruel and mean, it is critical and very competitive.
It can leave even adults fearful and doubtful of themselves and their capabilities.
The home should thus be a safe place , that consistently affirm the child
How does affirmations benefit your Pre Teen
They build self esteem Makes the child feel safe with you Enhances connection Makes the child feel loved and supported
This video gave a very sweet perspective from a biblical point of view. I couldn’t help but share it with you.
Tip#13 Help them develop emotional intelligence
Why is emotional intelligence important for tweens?
People with high EQ can manage stress easily EQ is the pillar of interpersonal relations. It is the tool/power you need to be able to adapt and thrive under different circumstances It is crucial for general health, physical and mental For achievement of personal goals It is good for energy and enthusiasm
Raising emotionally intelligent kids should be on a priority list of all parents. This becomes more important as they approach the teen years.
Tip#14 Don’t compare him with others
Why shouldn’t we compare our pre teens with other?
It increases their anxiety
Causes them to withdraw in social situations
Make them to doubt themselves Breeds negative competition
Final Words on : 14 essential tips for parenting pre teens
Pre teens years set a stage for adolescence years, which are usually very turbulent for most families. The endeavor during these tween years is to gain your son’s trust, anchor yourself in his heart and mind as a safe place , ensuring that you are the first he think of, when he come across challenges or is faced with situations that he cannot comfortably share with anyone else. These are the years to do whatever it takes to deepen the connection, which will be your very important tool when navigating the turbulent teen years.