Today we’ll be sharing some top tips for parenting tweens because you know nothing. That’s not my opinion, obviously. It’s what every tween thinks about their parents.
You’re old and you’re lame and you know NOTHING about being 11, or 12.
So here goes:
My name is Sally, and I’m a terrible parent. But it’s alright. I’ve realised that everyone parenting a pre-teen or tween is a pretty terrible parent.
Parenting Tweens is Scary
Here’s the thing. You spend ten years perfecting your parenting technique on this little person, safe in the knowledge that any mistakes can be fixed. Probably.
Then suddenly they’re almost 12, and in senior school. You’re still winging it, but now the stakes are higher. Not all mistakes can be fixed.
Get it wrong, and your child might end up experimenting with drugs or alcohol to help themselves feel better. Expose them to the wrong messages about their appearance, and they might develop disordered eating. There’s shoplifting, and sexual experimentation, and depression and self-harming.
Even if your tween doesn’t experience those issues (and I hope to goodness they won’t) they’ll probably have friends who do.
This is the situation we’re wrestling with right now. In a secondary school environment, Flea 100% knows girls with disordered eating habits. She knows girls who argue with their family. Who self-harm. Who experiment with various unhealthy behaviours.
They’re girls like her. From families like ours. I don’t judge anyone in this position, because it could be any of us. Trust me, “My kids wouldn’t ever do that,” goes out of the window really fast with pre-teens.
Tips for Parenting Tweens
I worry because my pre-teen has a history of struggling with stress over things like exams. While I might try and teach her healthy ways of managing her feelings, I’m not necessarily the biggest influence in her life these days.
As parents, we need to focus on giving our tweens tools more than we focus on telling them what to do.
Obviously, kids can’t “catch” depression or an eating disorder. But contagion is a thing. Teens who see certain sorts of behaviour among their peers are more likely to try those things themselves.
I make no apology for being protective. Aren’t we all?
But I can’t ban Flea from being friends with people. It wouldn’t work, even if I did.
At this stage of parenting, then, I’m working on a three-part strategy.
Tween Parenting Tip 1: Talking
First, we talk. I talk to Flea about how to be supportive of kids who might be struggling, and some of the dangers they might face because of the things they’re doing.
I talk about how it’s important not to get sucked into someone else’s drama. And that there’s nothing so bad, or secret, or scary, that she can’t call me. She knows I will drop everything to come and help if she, or someone she cares about, needs me. No judgement, no questions (until later).
Tween Parenting Tip 2: Developing Social Support
The second of my tips for parenting tweens takes some time. I work on developing Flea’s social circle so that she has balance.
There are kids who are easy and fun to be with, and I manipulate schedules and activities, just a little bit, to encourage Flea to spend more time with those kids and at those activities.
Yes, it’s important to support friends who are having a bad time. But I tell Flea that you can’t let someone else pull you under because you’re too exhausted to keep them afloat. So don’t make one friend your whole world. Don’t become that person’s whole world.
Tween Parenting Tips 3: Trust your past work
As for my third tip for parenting pre-teens, well, third is the hardest bit.
Third, I have to trust that all the borderline inept parenting I did for the first 10 years actually pays off.
I have to trust that Flea knows the difference between being supportive to a friend, and being influenced by them. I have to trust that she is resilient and confident enough to make the right choices for her own wellbeing and happiness. But wow, it’s hard.
Maybe she’s right. Maybe I really do know nothing.
What do you think? Am I being over-cautious? How do you react when tweens are friends with children who you think might not be good for them?