“Why did Jack score two goals and I didn’t score any?” “I’m terrible at soccer. I should just quit.” “Everyone else in my class knows how to do this math problem but me. I’m awful at it.” “You just don’t understand.”
And so it begins… I have a tween. With this new label comes a noticeable change in my once easy-going, happy, confident child. New emotions have set in as well as constant comparisons between my tween and classmates, teammates, and friends.
Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines a tween as a boy or girl who is 11 or 12 years old. The tween years serve as the transitional years between being a child and becoming a teenager.
With this transition comes uncertainty as to what defines the tween. This uncertainty manifests in various ways such as tears, angry outbursts, and more seriously, depression and anxiety.
Parents and caregivers are often caught off-guard as to how to help their tween navigate this stage of life. Following are some tips for helping parents and tweens not only survive these years, but to use them to strengthen relationships.
First, remember to validate and acknowledge the tween’s feelings. Give permission for your tween to be sad or angry.
This will assist the tween in feeling comfortable with sharing various emotions with adults. Additionally, this simple acknowledgement will help the tween trust the adult by knowing their feelings will not be laughed at or dismissed.
During this stage, tweens are attempting to define themselves. Often this is done by ranking their abilities compared to others. No matter what the tween is comparing, he or she will always find someone who is better than them.
Adults can help by directing praise and compliments toward character traits rather than abilities or accomplishments. Praising a tween for getting a B in math will likely be followed by the response, “but so and so got an A.”
Focusing on the traits that resulted in the tween earning the B will assist the tween with recognizing the positive traits he or she possesses. In this situation, stating, “You showed a lot of patience when learning the new material in math. It would have been easy to give up, but you continually gave it your all,” will bring the focus to the traits of patience and perseverance rather than a letter grade, which serves as a ranking system.
The most important factor in helping your tween is to be available. According to World of Psychology, it is imperative to give your tween options to communicate their feelings to you. Allowing your child to choose whether to talk face-to-face, by text, or by calling you about emotions and situations will increase the likelihood of your tween coming to you with concerns and for support.
If you find that your tween is experiencing more serious emotional outbursts or is becoming increasingly withdrawn and isolated, additional assistance may be needed.
Contacting your school’s Youth First Social Worker with these concerns can result in early intervention. Early intervention by a professional is beneficial to help tweens learn coping skills before the emotions become too intense and overwhelming.
This column is contributed by Heather Miller, LCSW, school social worker for Youth First, Inc.
, a local nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families. Youth First provides 39 Master’s level social workers to 57 schools in seven southwestern Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First’s school social work and afterschool programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success.