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Tweens and teens: What every parent should know about this transitional phase

The transition to teenage-hood is one of the scariest for parents – and rightfully so. With so much transformation going on, tweens and teens can feel like a walking rollercoaster ride. But this is also one of the most beautiful and special transitions in your child’s life. It’s an opportunity for you to strengthen your bond and guide them into adulthood. If your child is entering the tween and teenage phase, these are some of the changes you can expect and our tips to navigate these crucial years in your child’s life.

Physical changes

As hormonal developments start to occur, it’s perfectly normal for your child to undergo physical changes. Just remember that everybody is different. Whether your child is an early or a late bloomer, they will still need your support every step of the way.  

These are some suggestions to make your child’s physical changes easier on them:

  • Keep up with their doctor appointments and address any concerns with their pediatrician
  • Support a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a balanced diet
  • Have open conversations with your child about the changes that their body is going through
  • Discuss anything that they may find embarrassing or confusing
  • Answer their questions naturally and honestly
  • Address any concerns that your child may have about body image or physical development
  • Provide them with clothes that fit comfortably and accommodate their growing body

Emotional complications

mother and daughter talk
Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock

For most tweens and teens, hormonal changes are accompanied by emotional complexities. Things that didn’t seem to matter before grow in importance and feelings may become more intense. There could also be a sense of confusion, loneliness or inability to connect with others. Your child may feel sad at one moment and happy another, often not even knowing why they feel or react the way that they do.

These are some ways for you to help your child cope with the emotional complexities they’re going through:

  • Talk about the importance of mental and emotional health
  • Offer a listening ear or shoulder to cry on
  • Make yourself available as a source of advice or a sounding board whenever they need one
  • Discuss resources such as school counselors, therapists or spiritual guides if your child is more comfortable talking to another adult
  • Meditation can be part of your teenager’s mindfulness practice and help release stress
  • Journaling, art or music give many teens the space to express themselves freely
  • Let your child know they can always count on you, especially if they or a friend are in danger

Social development

Social life is a major aspect of every tween and teen’s life. During this new stage of their lives, what peers think and where they stand in their circle of friends is more important than ever. In this transition from elementary to middle school, some friendships will be lost and others will strengthen. Your child will spend more time on social media, “play dates” will turn into “hangouts,” and parties will become more frequent. 

As your child starts to socialize in new ways, here are some suggestions for you to stay involved:

  • Get to know their friends
  • Stay in communication with their friends’ parents
  • Keep an eye on social media to make sure that posts and communications are appropriate
  • Establish clear rules on social media and use of devices
  • Stay in the loop about changes in your child’s friend group
  • Understand the importance of spending time with other kids their age, but be sure to schedule family time
  • Talk openly about peer pressure and offer tips on how to deal with it
group of school kids

More responsibilities

Academic challenges may affect your tween and teen more than you realize. The change from elementary to middle and then high school results in increased responsibility or fears that your child may not know how to handle. This is especially true for kids who have many extracurricular activities and a demanding schedule.

Help your child find work-life balance from an early age and enhance their sense of responsibility with these ideas:

  • Assess your child’s schedule and make sure they are not overbooked
  • Only keep the activities that your child finds enriching and that support your lifestyle
  • Keep in close communication with their teachers, especially if you see grades dropping or notice a loss of interest in academics
  • Offer academic support and resources if your child is struggling with any subjects
  • Gift your tween or teen a planner to help them stay organized
  • Remind them about the importance of daily work and encourage good study habits
  • Provide extra help during periods of transition or other challenging changes in their routine
  • Make sure they have a well-lit and comfortable place to do their school work
  • Let them face the consequences of procrastination and, once they’ve failed, help them change their habits

Greater need for independence

With physical and emotional growth comes a sense of independence in your child. The truth is that they are now capable of doing a lot more on their own, and if they have more responsibilities, it’s only fair for them to enjoy greater independence. If they haven’t done so already, it’s only a matter of time before your tween or teen asks for permission to hang out alone with friends.

mother and daughter laughing
fizkes / Shutterstock

This may be more difficult for you to deal with than your child. Here are some tips for both parties to deal with your kid’s newfound sense of independence:

  • Whenever it’s possible and safe, let them make their own choices
  • Talk about the difference between rebelliousness and independence
  • Let your child know what you’re comfortable with and what you are not OK with yet
  • Explain that, as they grow, they will have permission to do more things on their own and with friends
  • Compromise and find in-betweens that make both of you happy
  • Talk about safety often
  • Have a plan for your child to contact you, another family member or the authorities in case of emergency
  • Consider a self-defense course for your peace of mind and to increase your child’s sense of confidence
  • Try not to instill fear in your child. Instead, focus on self-trust and awareness 

More defined interests

Just because your child is older, it doesn’t mean they’ve lost interest in everything. Tweens and teens are blossoming into their own persons, and as such, they want to experience the world and everything life has to offer. Some will develop new passions while others will further define their existing interests. 

Here are some great ways for you to support your child in this phase:

  • Ask them if they’d like to try something new and sign them up for classes
  • Get them books or point them toward online resources for them to learn more about their interest
  • Concerts, sporting events or crafting can be great ways for you to connect with them and show support for the things they care about
  • Avoid pressuring them to share your interests

As your child develops into an adult, you have an opportunity to get to know them better as a person. It’s natural for change to be scary for both you and them, but with good communication and your encouragement you are more than likely to become the proud parent of a wholesome, responsible and accomplished adult. The most important thing in this stage of your kid’s life is to trust the work you did as the parent of a young child and continue to give them love throughout this challenging transition.

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