Sometimes it seems as if it happens overnight. The child who used to tell you everything suddenly starts pulling away. Perhaps your son no longer wants you to come over and say hello to him when he’s with his friends. Or maybe your daughter, who used to divulge every detail of her day at school, is less talkative. You would be lying to yourself if you said you don’t feel a little hurt, but you understand. You knew this day was coming. Your child is officially a tween.
Tweens—children typically between the ages of 10 and 12 (grades four through seven)—are at an “in-between” stage, meaning they’re no longer small children, but they’re not yet teenagers. The tween years are a period of rapid physiological, emotional, and social development and can be a difficult time, characterized by physical and emotional changes brought on by the onset of puberty. In addition, as tweens struggle to establish their identity and find their place in the world, they face numerous peer and societal pressures.
“The tween years are complex because children at this developmental age are still children, but are beginning to become aware of the behaviors and lives of older kids,” says Karin Mosk, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist with a specialty in child and adolescent assessment and treatment who has a private practice in Bowie. “Their peers become an even more important influence than their parents, and they start to incorporate the values learned at home into the values and social expectations of their friends at school. Also, it is during this time that tweens become aware of similarities and differences among children. They are constantly trying to figure out whether what makes them the same and what makes them different is ‘okay.'”
As a parent, you may feel as if your child is pushing you away or confiding in you less. And you may find it difficult to communicate with him or her. But don’t get discouraged. Sure, it won’t be easy, but you can build a strong relationship with your tween. By making communication a priority (so your child knows that he or she can talk to you about anything), setting boundaries, and knowing when to give your child space, you can lay the foundation for a healthy relationship—not just during the tween years but also during the teen years and beyond.