Adjusting to change during the preteen years
Are you confused by your nine-year-old daughter’s sudden interest in shopping, nail polish and Britney Spears fashion? Are you feeling a bit ‘put out’ by your ten-year-old son’s messy room with the "do not enter" sign on the door?
Chances are that if you have a child between the ages of 9 and 12, you may have noticed a few changes recently—in their interests, personal space, and how they communicate.
Although these kinds of behavioural changes may be a source of frustration for some parents, the reality is that these changes are fairly universal among preteens—sometimes referred to as ‘tweens’—as they begin to develop their own sense of identity in the world around them.
Below are a few tips for parents that may help smooth the ‘tweenie’ transition.
Offer space and privacy: Understand that what may seem like withdrawal, is a preteen's way of saying: "I am in the process of finding out about myself.” The best thing a parent can do is respect a preteen’s need for space and privacy. Try allowing your preteen a place where he or she can feel a sense of independence. For most preteens, this is usually the bedroom; it’s the one room in the house where they feel they can develop a sense of identity.
Tweens and clutter go hand-in-hand: As preteens begin to develop a sense of who they are, they begin to acquire belongings that reflect their own individual personality. While mementos scattered throughout their room, such as photos, posters, cards, notes, etc., may appear as clutter to you, remember that to your preteen, they are reflections of his or her young life.
Pick your battles: Ask yourself if your preteen’s choice in music, or his or her messy room, is really as big an issue as skipping school, taking dares that are risky, or dangerous bike riding. If you overreact to smaller issues, your preteen is much less likely to come to you when he or she confronts a real dilemma or problem. Try holding firm on the more important standards but be more flexible with matters that aren’t as important in the big scheme of things.
Listen, really listen: Be an active listener and offer your complete attention for matters big or small. Resist the urge to belittle seemingly ‘silly’ problems and try to keep an open mind. Focus in on what your preteen is really telling you—and whether he or she is feeling insecure, stressed, excited, etc.—and respond with empathy and understanding.
Send the right message: During these years, parents can be vocal about behavioural changes in their children that they don’t agree with, so it‘s important to offer praise and admiration for your preteen’s abilities and achievements as often as possible.
Need more information on parenting? Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help with a child to elder care resource and referral service that is geared toward enhancing the quality of family life. Call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to see if you are eligible for the child to elder care resource and referral service at 1 866.468.9461 or 1.800.387.4765.
© 2005 WarrenShepell