A ‘tween’ is a person between the ages of 9 amd 12. Parents are all too familiar with this developmental stage because it can be tricky especially with new issues presenting themselves continuously. Some of the more common tween issues include: smoking, abuse of phone privileges, body image, menstruation and negative peer influences. Parents must learn to deal with these potential problems. The best way to overcome them is to communicate effectively and often with your tween. Talk about issues before they arise and discuss solutions. Ask questions even if your tween insists there is “nothing wrong.” It’s important to trust your instincts and you will be better equipped to help navigate your tween through these years.
Smoking kills we all know that, yet unfortunately many young people get addicted every day. One in three smokers will die prematurely because of tobacco. Keeping your tween or teen from lighting up is an on-going challenge. Take the time to explain your thoughts about smoking. If you don’t want your kids to smoke, make it clear. Explain to them that cigarettes contain tar, carbon monoxide, nicotine (the drug that makes smoking addictive) and chemicals. Tobacco is toxic to your body. It causes more health problems and early deaths than all illegal drugs combined. When you smoke, the risk of strokes, lung cancer, and heart disease increases significantly. Convey these messages as often as possible. As a parent, model good behaviour. If you smoke, it’s going to be extremely difficult to convince your tween not to!
Phone privileges
Ask any parent, telephones and tweens go hand in hand. Most tweens spend an average of two to three hours a day on the phone talking about things, boys at school or what to wear for a school outing. Obviously, rules need to be set if phone use starts interfering with homework or chores. Require that these priorities be completed before using the phone. Have consequences if your tween does not abide by the rules. Loss of phone use would be appropriate. If you have more than one tween at home, set specific times that each one can use the phone and have them take turns accordingly. If your tween has a mobile phone, they need to fully understand the cost associated with it. Having them pay a portion of the bill or buy their credit out of their allowance can be a good idea.
Body image
Studies show that body image can be a huge problem for tweens and can lead to eating disorders later on in life. Our culture seems to be obsessed with physical appearance. Images in the media usually have unrealistic standards. Help your child develop a positive body image, because this can be closely linked to self-esteem. For example: when girls hit early puberty, they may experience some weight gain as their body changes shape. Keep your comments positive and realistic. This is a great time in your daughter’s life. Reassure her that this new shape is a positive sign of more changes to come as she grows into a woman. Pay attention to what you say about yourself as well. Be a good role model. Do not criticise your own body or put yourself down. This sends a message to your kids that your body isn’t good enough. If your doctor determines that your child needs to lose some weight, emphasise good health and fitness as a family instead of singling out your overweight tween. Go hiking or biking on the weekends as a family unit to encourage togetherness rather than attractiveness. Good nutrition, along with exercise, will relieve stress and make your tween healthier and happier.
The first menstrual period is a big deal in a tween’s life. Your tween may feel a mix of emotions (from being excited to being worried) about reaching this rite of passage into womanhood. Menstruation can be a scary thing, because it involves blood and some pain. A couple years beforehand, the beginnings of puberty arise. Breasts start developing, pubic hair appears and the body will begin to change shape. It’s important as parents to discuss menstruation before your daughter’s first menstrual period and talk about it in a positive light. Bring some props along (tampons and sanitary napkins) so your tween can interact with these items before she actually needs them. This will help her feel more in control. It’s a safe bet that your daughter will not want to have this conversation in public, so the privacy of your own home is best. It’s also important to discuss that menstruation means she can become pregnant. This may be a perfect springboard for a discussion on birth control and your rules regarding romantic relationships as well.
Negative peer influences
There is a good chance you are not going to like ALL of your tween’s friends. You might be reacting to something superficial, like the way a person dresses or their manners, but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad influences. However, sometimes the issue is more serious. You might suspect that contact with a particular friend puts your tween at risk. Your worries might include: skipping school, shoplifting, taking drugs, drinking or driving dangerously. It may have more to do with the “attitude” you see developing in your tween as the friendship develops. Forbidding this relationship may not be the best way to put an end to it, because your tween is likely to rebel. The most important step you can take in this type of situation is to encourage them to make responsible decisions for themselves. If they are feeling pressured to do something they are not entirely comfortable with, you might be their best source of information about alternatives. Empower your tween to be confident in their choices. Just remember, your tween will still take risks, make mistakes and suffer the consequences. It is just all part of growing up.