Change is difficult! Most people try to resist change as much as possible. As parents, change becomes harder when your kids are involved. Imagine how it feels when your cute and cuddly child who always wanted to snuggle into your lap suddenly begins to act as though you are their enemy!
Your little baby is now replaced with a kid who talks differently, acts differently, thinks they own the world, and claims to know stuff that’s much “cooler” than you! They have changed drastically; so drastic that you’d even think if that little child was someone else in disguise? I know I’ve often wondered in the last three years if some teen has possessed my child!
If you are feeling or have recently felt any or all of the above, then let me tell you – Congratulations – you have successfully graduated from a little child’s mom to a tween’s mom!
And your baby has transitioned from a little boy/girl to a tween who’s getting ready for the teenage years! This can only mean one thing! The time has come for you to make that transition as well! Yes, I know, easier said than done!
For parents who aren’t there yet, let me explain, the transition to a tween begins in a child from the ages of nine or ten and lasts until they are twelve. After that, of course, they are a teen! [*Gasp* please don’t remind me!] A tween will display drastic changes in their physical and cognitive abilities and also in their emotional and social capacities. They will talk and act like a teenager often to the shock of the parents! They will even begin arguing with the parents clarifying their side so eloquently much to the parents’ astonishment. So much will change that for a brief moment you’d think that they’re on their way to becoming responsible young adults, when… BOOM… they make some very foolish and childish errors! As a parent, you are confused on what you should do! Do you now treat them as a teen and logically explain to them the consequences of their wrongdoings or do you continue to treat them as a child and give them a timeout for going against the rules?
I know it can be overwhelming! You’d think if parenting ever gets easier?
Sorry to break it to you so brusquely, but the answer is “No! It never gets easier!”
Every stage of parenting is filled with very unique challenges that parents have to go through with their child and every one of these challenges can test you to your very limits!
Middle school or the tween years are the time when your children begin to blossom into a young adult. And this is also the time when they start pulling away from you much to your chagrin. This vicissitude may leave you feeling rejected, wanting to pull back from your child and reluctantly give them their space, however, it is also during these years that your child needs you more than ever! Experts say that these are the years when parents can build a strong foundation of the parent-child relationship incorporating the confidence in them that you’ll always be there for them.
This whole transition bit did not hit me until my son turned ten. It was right after his 10th birthday that I noticed he was spending too much time huddled up in his room chatting with his friends, he started talking to me like an adult, he did not want to snuggle into my bed at night anymore for cuddles! Suddenly he was as tall as me and the next day he was taller than me! How is that even possible!? Sigh!
He was changing so quickly that it was hard to keep up!
I remember feeling confused, angry, hurt, rejected, irritated, frustrated… (throw in any other appropriate adjective in there, and I am sure I felt it).
It was like learning to parent him all over again, as though I just had a newborn and didn’t know what to do!
Like all transitions in my life, this one was also filled with ups and downs. I learned that as a parent you must learn to negotiate such fluctuations efficiently for both your child’s and your sanity!
After reading tons of parenting books, articles, blogs, etc., here’s what I learned. Not only did it help me make the transition from a little boy’s mom to a tween’s mom, it also helped me become a mom who is very much involved in his life, yet, gives him the space he needs (even though I do it while sulking over why he had to grow up so quickly)!
- Remember it’s not about you – I have learned to not personalize my son’s newfound independence, his need for space, or his dependence on his friends. I told myself that it’s age appropriate for him and that I should be happy that he’s continuing to meet all his milestones! By letting him know that I am available to talk whenever he needs me, I was successful in bringing him closer to me rather than alienate him!
- Set up dates with your child – My son and I have a Tuesday night movie thing, it’s our thing! No one else is invited, it’s just us. We pick a movie in the neighborhood cinema, buy some junk food for dinner, watch the movie and head home talking all about that movie! During this time, I am his friend, the person he can talk to, I’m not his mom. It’s also during these “dates” that he talks to me about what’s happening in school, or a problem with a friend, or about a girl he thinks is sweet! I don’t even have to ask! This way I don’t feel “left behind”.
- It’s OK to be Vulnerable – Going back to what I said in the beginning, change is hard! As I was trying to negotiate my way transitioning into being a perfect parent, my emotions were running high! Stopping for a second to take a deep breath and knowing that it is ok to feel vulnerable was what helped me maneuver these feelings! Remember, you have every right to feel what you’re feeling! Just breathe, take a break and carry on!
Finding just the right balance with a tween is definitely not the easiest parenting job. I know, as with all parenting jobs, it takes the trial and error method to get it right. But eventually, I am sure, will all get there!