Just like their nickname implies, tweens are caught in a middle ground between childhood and adolescence. From ages 10 to 12, children are old enough to crave independence and privacy, and yet too young to make many important decisions on their own. As puberty hits, their bodies are in an in-between state, too.

Don't let their desire for distance fool you: During this time of tremendous growth and change, tweens need parents more than ever. From social challenges to dating, children may be facing brand-new challenges that require your guidance and understanding. Learn how to support your son or daughter during this challenging, dynamic stage.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do you expect in the tween years?

    In a word: change. Puberty, starting with the development of sex organs and pubic hair, begins as early as ages 10 to 12 for boys and ages 8 to 10 for girls. New hormones may come with roller-coaster moods. Their brains are undergoing a period of rapid maturation, too. Your tween may approach problems with more logic and start developing stronger opinions even as they sometimes act impulsively—the part of their brain governing self-control isn't fully formed until later.

  • What things do tweens like?

    Some tweens like sports, others appreciate the arts, but nearly all gravitate toward some form of digital entertainment. A recent survey found that tweens log an average of four-and-a-half hours per day watching videos, playing games, and interacting on social media. The impulse to be online is tied to their skyrocketing social awareness. Tweens crave connection with friends more and more, so it's good to give them plenty of opportunities to socialize, offline or on.

  • What are tweens worried about?

    According to a Pew Research Center survey, 61% of tweens and teens feel pressure to get good grades. Meanwhile, 29% worry about their appearance and 28% are concerned about fitting in socially. Offering to talk to your tween about their worries will give them comfort, even if they don't always come to you with their problems.

  • What should tweens do when bored?

    Beat boredom by signing up your tween for one or more extracurricular activities, where they can follow budding passions in sports, dance, art, or music. Summer doldrums can be solved by a great overnight camp or enrichment program. But it's important not to overschedule your tween. Having free time to read, doodle, or— yes—even scroll on their phone can be good for their mental health.

  • What are the signs of a troubled teen?

    Not every teen will go to a parent with their problems, so it's important to be on the lookout for signs of distress. One in five teens has a mental health challenge, according to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Some signs that your teen may be troubled include being sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks, drastic swings in mood or behavior, substance abuse, or talk of self-harm.

  • How do you deal with a difficult teen?

    It's normal for teens to push boundaries in a quest for independence, but frequently being disrespectful or displaying disruptive behavior is a different story. Some strategies to help difficult teens include praising what they're doing well, ignoring antagonistic behavior, and enforcing logical and natural consequences (taking away their phone if they have used it inappropriately, for instance).

Key Terms

Page Sources
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