Helping your kids through the pre-teen years


Pre-teensGet it right with your tweenie or pre-teen and you should sail through the teenage years.  Agreed?

Technically yes, but there are so many other factors that pre-teens need to deal with. You can hardly keep up with them, and there’s a danger of not recognising them when they reach teenage years.

When pre-teens start acting like teenagers it can be a real shock to the system for the parents.  They are still children, but they will surprise you with their ability to argue articulately to the point one minute, and then do childish things the next.

The middle school years are a time of magical blossoming, but like all huge transitions in our kids’ lives, they’re filled with ups and downs. As with parenting toddlers, parents who don’t accept and constructively negotiate their child’s blossoming independence invite rebellion, or even worse, deception.

The biggest danger for tweens is losing the connection to parents while struggling to find their place and connect in their peer world. The biggest danger for parents is trying to parent through “power” instead of through relationship, thus eroding their bond and losing their influence on their child as he/she moves into the teen years.

Behaviour changes that you’ll see in your pre-teen

– They’ll spend less time with the family and more time with friends/iPhone/iPad

– They begin to form their identity by exploring different clothing, hairstyles, friends, music and hobbies

– Moodiness is a more common emotion as they struggle to search for their identity, and especially changes in their body!

– They’ll have conflicting feelings about “breaking away” from parents. One day it will be mood swings and no communication, the next day they won’t leave your side

– At times of trouble there may be a need to express emotional pain, and the outlet may result in unexplained behaviour from skipping school, to verbal aggression.

But! It’s not all doom and gloom, here are a few handy tips for parents during the time of pre-teen turmoil:

– Believe it or not, pre-teens and teens actually do want guidance. Set reasonable limits, feel the emotion around conversation – sometimes it may not be appropriate to talk, perhaps your pre-teen just wants you to listen!

– When differences arise – and they will – try to be as approachable as possible. Give space, but at the appropriate time in the conversation remind them remember who the parent is!

– Know when to hold your ground as a parent and know when to let go. A hairstyle that looks crazy today will have grown out in a few weeks, and will be different in a year’s time when the new hairstyles are in. Alcohol and drugs, however, will have a different hold on a child and could affect adulthood, so will need a different approach.

– Bodily change can sometimes be embarrassing for pre-teens, and this is such an important time for reassurance. Looking at images all day on TV, YouTube etc can give them a complex. Develop communication and ensure they are made aware that their changes are unique to them. There’s no pressure to look like anyone else.

– You may still see your “baby”, but there are hormones raging in your pre-teen’s mind. So it’s probably not a good idea to tease him/her about bodily changes!!

– Personal hygiene is imperative. This needs to be at the top of a parent’s list so much so that it becomes second nature very early in pre-teen years (especially in girls around puberty and the onset of menstruation).

– When problems occur always try to get to the heart of the problem – always attempt to be available.

– When your pre-teen come home from school, if he/she feels negative emotions when they put their key in the front door, and if you pick up on that behaviour, attempt to deal with it. If not, your child will eventually find somewhere, someone, or something, to call “home”