Buckle in for the tween rollercoaster
So you’ve sat down and the rollercoaster ride is about to begin - the dip down looks terrifying but you’re an adrenaline junkie and the more terrified you feel the more fun it will be! The steward comes round and clicks your safety belt into place. The adrenaline is great but so is living, so you shake the belt . And again. And a bit more. It seems to not budge and feels secure enough - you feel safe. This, my friends, is an analogy to those tween years I read some time ago.
You are the belt and the rider is your tween-ager. The rider is pushing and testing the belt - not to make it fail or because they want it to fail but because they want and need it to stay rock steady. As the parent of a tween, it is our job to try and stay rock steady, as hard as it may be sometimes!
I’m the mum of an 11 and a 13 year old so I’m very much at the beginning of my own personal tween adventure but I am trying to live by some key principles:
This too shall pass
If you’ve got this far in parenthood then you know full well that stages of development come and go. That one day they love bananas and the next apparently they hate them. I have many friends and a brother and sister who started the joy of parenthood some years before I did and I’ve seen it happen. The truth is, a tween (or a teen!) is not an easy person to like. They will come out the other end and they will be charming ... but whilst their hormones are playing havoc, their confidence is shaky and their brain is re-wiring itself from a child brain to an adult brain, they are challenging to say the least. We have to believe this stage will pass or we will all go mad...
I live with 3 males, actually 4 if you include the dog, and timing is probably my best friend and my worst enemy. There is no doubt they all have selective hearing and they categorically can not be asked to do ANYTHING when hungry or tired. Now I am a woman of a certain age, so when I think of something- a chore I need to do, a reminder of an appointment etc, if I don’t deal with it there or then I will forget. But I have learned in my marriage and as a parent that sometimes I need to hold my breath. Write it down for later. Choose the right moment - generally just after they’ve eaten and most definitely not when they are watching any kind of sport. Timing is everything. And the point at which your tween is having a meltdown (and trust me they will), is not the time to try and reason with them.
The age old one but working hard to keep communication lines open with your tween is critical. Chat when you can about anything and everything, however trivial it may seem to you, if they are willing to open up and tell us stuff then we must respect them enough to listen and show interest. Try and find mutual interests - I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy football but it’s a platform for chat and laughter. Getting a dog means we do more family walks - phones away and causal chatter. Try not to judge. Or at least not openly to them! But don’t be afraid to share your opinion - debate is healthy and they need to learn not everyone agrees with everything they say. And be thrilled when they chat to others - to my later point, being the “parent” comes with the heavy weight of being deeply uncool and totally not understanding their world! We have an amazing babysitter who’s known my kids since they were wee toddlers - she’s young and cool and I know they chat to her a lot.I love that they have safe people like that in their lives.
To my earlier point, be open to really bad timing too. Much like when they were toddlers, they seem to sense when it’s a really bad moment to demand your time - you’re just home from work, cooking dinner, so very tired, in the middle of an important task etc etc - drop it. Listen to them. It will pay dividends.
It’s hard being a tween parent. You have to face up to sometimes not being liked, and you are most definitely not cool. Deal with it. You’re still you and a brilliant person so don’t let the tween get you down. Just realise they think you are deeply uncool, very annoying and on this planet to ruin their fun. Take the hugs when you can and love the laughter when it happens, but realise for the most part you are really really annoying. Not easy. Hence my next point.
How many books did you read, advice did you seek, groups did you join when your babies were born? NCT, pre-natal, post natal, toddler groups etc etc Most of us sought lots of input and support and some honest conversations as we struggled with feeding, lack of sleep, weaning, routines, etc etc. But the tweens is such a tricky stage - we don’t really have support networks or have groups of friends who are going through the same age issues and are we really confident enough to be open and honest? Do we share that our tween has been rude to us, or eats little to no vegetables or spends hours on the PS4/Xbox/YouTube/Netflix...or stays awake sometimes later than you do? I think sometimes we are a little embarrassed or feel guilt because we’ve done something wrong as a parent. Let’s be kind to each other, with no judgement. There is no such thing as perfect parenting and the perfect tween simply doesn’t exist.
So, knuckle down, enjoy the ride and remember to fasten your seatbelts!!!