Parenting a Tween is one of the most challenging things I have ever done.
It is a huge undertaking with so much emotion and desires attached to it. I want to be a good mom. I want my kids to grow up as successful, caring, emotionally healthy adults. I want my kids to like me. I want them to know that they are amazing and can do anything they set their minds to. I want them to be good problem-solvers and compassionate friends… and the list goes on.
Whew! All those emotions and desires can leave me feeling overwhelmed, stuck, and bouncing from idea to idea. It is easy to get bogged down in mom guilt when things don’t feel like they are quite on track.
Making the Transition Into the Tween Years as a Parent
In the last few months, that is where I have been, slogging through, with my older son. We have entered the “tween” years and it is quite the transition! The emotions are bigger, the problems hold longer-term consequences, and the relationship is changing – quickly!
I have found myself feeling really adrift and unsure of how to be a good parent to him. For most of his young life, he thought I was amazing. He looked to me to help him solve problems, to give him the majority of his sense of self-worth and love through my praise and attention.
And I gained so much of my self-identity and self-worth through being his mom. Now, he doesn’t want me for any of that. Just asking him how his day went can inspire some massive eye-rolling!
At first, having him get frustrated and mad at my desire to connect with him and be part of his life in the way that I normally had been, felt really confusing. Honestly, my feelings were hurt, and I was taken off-guard. I just wasn’t ready for my sweet, kind, goofy little kiddo to become hormonal, more interested in his friends than anything else in life, and so independent.
For a while, I tried to hold on tighter. I tried to force him back into being a kid who needed and wanted his mom. He was having a tough time at school and was just so confused about how to make things feel better. I spent hours talking with him, making suggestions, offering my help. (Which just made him more frustrated.)
Eventually, I made a total misstep and tried to swoop in and solve the problem by talking to his teacher. I knew, in my head, that he needed to figure out how to solve his problem on his own, but, in my heart, it was just unbearable to watch him struggle.
What a learning moment for both of us that experience was! I had to face him after school that day and apologize. I had to admit that I wasn’t sure how to be a good mom to him right now but that I knew that fixing his problems wasn’t my role anymore. That he was now old enough to have to figure some things out on his own. That our relationship would have to change, and that I was feeling sad about that. But also, hopeful and excited for him.
Seeing the look in his eyes, and the way he stood taller when I told him that he was getting old enough to start making some of his own big decisions and solving his own big problems, was enough of a reinforcement to start shifting my mindset. Transitioning from being the leading lady in his story to being a supporting role is feeling better as I see that it allows him to step into his own and shine. (And oh boy, is he going to be an amazing man!)
The transition into the tween years is such a shift for kids but also for their parents. This is whereas a parent, you get to transition from some of the mundane “taking care of kids” type of parenting tasks (like bedtime routines and constantly tying shoes) to the amazing job of walking together into adulthood. (Cue the tears!!!)
As you transition into parenting a tween, here are some important lessons to take with you:
1. Shift Your Parenting Role From Caregiver to Mentor
Understand that your role as a parent will shift from caregiver to mentor. This doesn’t mean that you are no longer the parent – just that you need to loosen the reigns and allow your child to have more independence and autonomy.
2. Allow Room For Failure
You have to allow your children to fail and learn from the consequences. This will be hard but just keep reminding yourself that you want your child to grow into a competent adult who can solve their own problems!
Find Balance in the Relationship
Parenting a tween is a tightrope walk of being available and interested but not overbearing and demanding of their time and attention.
Set Boundaries Together
Find ways to set boundaries and limits together – allowing your tween to have a say in what rules they will live by gives them the encouragement to stay engaged and willing to go along with the rules. (Because even though they need more freedom – they still need boundaries as they enter the wild ride of the teenage years!)
Encourage Your Tween’s Place in the Family
Encourage them to help set the tone and values of your family together. One of the coolest things about a tween is that they now have the ability to understand and process so much more – allow them to use that for good by investing in the family dynamic!
One great resource for facilitating this is to have family meetings where your tween has the opportunity to participate and contribute. Here is an article on How to Have a Family Meeting that can be helpful if you are just getting started.
I also have a Family Meeting Kit that is perfect for families with tweens (and younger children).
Expect Wild Swings in Emotions
Expect wild swings in emotions, moods, and behaviors – talk to them about what is going on in their body, let them know that this is normal and that you understand.
Make sure that they understand both the biological and emotional changes happening in their body. Try to remember how confusing a time this was for you and have empathy and unyielding kindness.
Parenting a tween isn’t easy
The good news is that muddling through these years with your son or daughter will allow you to set the tone for the years to come.
If you are looking for additional resources to help you along the parenting path, I have a free resource library full of printables, parenting tools, and more. You can access it by signing up in the box below.
Additional Parenting Resources for the Tween Years
Parenting with Love and Logic for the Teen Years has some great book and audio resources.
Raising Happiness is a great book for providing some practical ways to build your child’s happiness and your relationship through these years.
Talking to Tweens is another great book that specifically helps you understand and communicate with your tween child.