There seems to be a lot of advice available for how to cope with the challenges of babies, toddlers and teenagers but not much for that in between age, 8-12 years; the ‘tweenies’.  I am the mum of a wonderful 9 year old girl who, like most children, has her moments!  I have been thinking about the conversations that my friends and I have recently had about our tweenies, and how to deal with the challenges that go along with this age (and we thought toddlers were hard work!)

8-12 year olds face a lot of change with the progression to secondary school being a huge milestone. My daughter and her friends at school seem to be starting to really feel peer, social and academic pressure and their days can seem very full with after-school activities and other clubs.

I spent some time looking into the changes that tweenies often face and looked for ideas and tips on how I might help my daughter to move through them.  I have shared them below as I thought they might be of interest to parents experiencing the same.  

Emotional Development and Social Behaviour 

  • Friendships – children’s friendships can become more complex.  Children become more emotionally dependant on friendships.
  • Peer pressure -can become much stronger. Children may feel pressured to impress friends to fit in better.  Educationally, they will be pushed more with more tests and homework . 
  • Self Awareness – Children (more so in girls) can start to become more aware of their bodies as puberty approaches. Sadly, eating problems can start from as young as nine.

Learning and Empathy

  • Children will start to grow more independent from the family - yes, closing themselves in their room for hours can start quite young!
  • They want to be more independent and play out with friends without adults supervising. 
  • Children will start to gain the ability to see the point of view of others more clearly and empathise with friends and family.
  • Their attention span will also increase - meaning us parents will hopefully not have to repeat ourselves quite so often!

Tips to help them (and you) through it all:

  • Take time out to spend solely with your child. If you are busy with cleaning or cooking let them help, it may take a little longer but it will also be a lot more fun.
  • Try to give your child a good balance of their own space and family time.  If they have siblings, particularly younger, time by themselves or time with friends without the younger ones around should prove popular and may help reduce any bickering.
  • Give them some chores to undertake in return for a little pocket money. Believe it or not, giving children this responsibility really can help with their development, and understanding the concept of being rewarded for good work.  It also helps them to develop their saving skills.
  • Talk with your child about their friends, how they are finding school and discuss the challenges they are facing.  Encourage your child to talk to you about anything that they are worried about or that other people are doing, encourage them to put themselves in other people’s shoes, to develop their empathy.
  • Encourage your child to help raise money for charity – explaining that other children aren’t as lucky as them, can help them be more selfless and encourage them  to share more readily.
  • Get to know their friends’ families – even if it’s a chat in the playground whilst the kids are there
  • Let them have friends stay over – this gives them the opportunity to entertain and share their bedtime with a friend.  Set the ground rules for them and give them a chance to show that they are ‘growing up’.
  • Get involved with their school – go to events and help out when you can.
  • Set rules with your children for their behaviour, give a warning if they are breaking the rules to give them a chance to change their behaviour before they get themselves into trouble.
  • Praise your child, talk about their strengths and the things that you love about them.  If you have lost your patience with them, (like we all do at times) then apologise and talk it through, like we expect them to do when they have lost their temper.  Lead by example.
  • Children who are confident and feel good about themselves will find it easier to resist peer pressure and will make better decisions for themselves.  Do what you can to foster your child’s confidence.
  • Talk to your friends – share your experiences and ideas, it can be reassuring to find that you are all facing similar challenges.