I remember a time back when one of our sons was around age 11-12, when he would spend his usual hour working on math, but would only finish 2-3 problems because he was daydreaming so much. He just couldn’t seem to stay focused!
Then when our daughter was around that same age, she seemed to spend more time alone in her room than she did out with the family. She would do her school work in her room and then read books for hours there. She preferred to be alone rather than out with her boisterous brothers!
Also, around age 12-13, another one of our sons spent a good year thinking he knew more than I did! He was subtle about it, trying to remain respectful (well, at least some of the time), but there was more “debating” and “arguing” going on than there had been before.
What do all these scenarios have in common? These things all happened during each child’s “tween” years.
The tween years are from ages 10-13 when a child is not quite a teen, but they’re no longer a little child anymore either. It can be a challenging time for kids as they transition from childhood into the teen years. Hormonal changes begin to happen, and they struggle with the reality of leaving the simple years of their childhood and becoming a teenager.
Maybe your son or daughter is in the middle of the tween years, or just approaching them.
What are some common characteristics that you might see in the tween years?
- They may act like a teenager one moment, wanting the privileges that come along with that as well, and then the next moment, they regress back to immature childish behaviors.
- According to the Classical teaching method, the tween years are the “dialectic years” where children begin to question and debate more. At this stage, children are hard-wired to try to understand “why” things are as they are, and they do it by analyzing, arguing and persuading. Therefore, even with children who weren’t especially argumentative in the past, you may see them begin to argue and negotiate more.
- Some kids will resist physical affection during the tween years, especially in public. I believe we see this less with homeschooled children, depending on their friends and what kind of peer pressure they experience.
- Tweens tend to need more sleep as their bodies transition from being a child to a teen.
- Today’s tweens are often very interested in using electronic devices, wanting to spend a lot of time on their cell phone, IPad or computer.
- Along those same lines, today’s tweens have a strong desire to be involved in using social media, such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, even though studies show that social media can be potentially damaging for children that age.
- Tweens often struggle with wanting to “fit in” and be accepted by their peers.
- Many tweens have a strong desire to spend time with friends and do things that teens might do, such as go to the movies or the mall alone.
- There can be extreme mood swings as their bodies begin having hormonal changes.
So how do we navigate homeschooling through these tween years with our children?
There are several things we can do to give us smoother sailing and stronger relationships as we go through this stage of life with our children.
Recognize that your tween is going through hormonal changes and give grace.
If you’re a woman reading this, think of your monthly hormonal changes and the emotional rollercoaster you often deal with monthly. Remember how hard it is to control your emotions during those times and recognize that this is your daughter’s first time dealing with some of these same fluctuations in emotion, and her mood swings may be even worse at first! Help her learn to cope with it rather than getting frustrated with her.
Boys also have fluctuating hormones during this time. There will be mood swings and also brain fog and some struggles with focusing just like I mentioned happened with our son. Encourage them to take more frequent breaks that include some physical activity to help them get refocused.
These mood swings in both sexes are normal and will pass eventually. Try not to take it personally. However, it’s important to set boundaries on what is appropriate behavior and what is not. Be supportive and understanding, but you also need to set rules on how they can treat you and others. Strive to be loving, consistent and firm.
Make time to talk with them about what they’re going through physically. This is a good time to find a good sex education curriculum that talks about what happens in puberty and go through it with them. Give them opportunities to ask questions. Even if it feels awkward to talk about these more “personal” topics, try to make it seem as natural to discuss as possible so they’ll feel comfortable coming to you!
I recommend the series, “God’s Design for Sex”, and the one for 8-11 year olds is “What’s the Big Deal, Why God Cares About Sex”.
Help them learn to discuss/debate respectfully.
As the Classical educators say, your tween will likely want to debate and negotiate more than they used to as they try to come to terms with what they really believe and want in life. They also tend to want more independence and feel they can handle more than they likely can. If they’re disrespectful in their interactions with you, you’ll want to sit down and have a discussion about what’s okay and what’s not in regard to disagreeing with you.
When our children had a difference of opinion in the tween and teen years, we had them ask politely, “Could I please appeal?” Maybe this sounds a little formal, you may prefer to use a different approach, but find something that gives your kids the opportunity to politely express their opinion or request a change in your decision. If after expressing their thoughts, you still feel your decision stands, don’t allow them to continue to argue or make demands related to that situation. Consequences might be necessary.
Give them simple choices, allowing them to move towards more independence, helping them learn to make decisions
Tweens need to feel that they have some control over what happens in their lives, it’s part of moving towards independence. It’s a perfect time to give them choices and teach them how to make wise decisions. You could choose to give them an allowance each month and make them responsible for buying their clothes and other things they want throughout the month. Walk them through how to budget and help them as they make purchases, so they don’t waste their money away.
Let them have some say in their school day schedule, allowing them to choose what order they do their independent work if possible.
Allow them to help with some aspect of homemaking or working outside. If they’re ready to start mowing, teach them how to do it and entrust them to do it. Give them responsibility in the areas they’re ready to handle. If they like to cook, allow them to make one meal a week or more for the family with help as needed.
If they need to make decisions about what to be involved in, help them walk through the pros and cons of each decision, and pray with them for God’s guidance.
In today’s society, this is tough. So many young kids have their own phone and are allowed to be on social media at a very young age. But too much electronic stimulation is said to cause problems in the development of the brain, so we need to be careful to limit the time our children are on electronic devices.
Also, social media is a dangerous place. Children can become prey for sexual predators unknowingly. Also, they can be exposed to obscene materials unexpectedly, and once they’ve seen it, it’s hard to erase from their memory.
“Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.” – U.S. Department of Justice 46 Covenant Eyes “250+ Facts and Stats About Pornography”
Take time to learn about the effects of electronics on your child’s brain if you’ve been using these devices to entertain your children a lot. And learn about the dangers of social media before you allow your tween to become involved in it.
Because the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) states that it protects the private, identifying information about children under age 13, many of the social media outlets suggest that 13 is a good age to allow children to be on social media. But really, age is not the factor we should be considering. Ask yourself if your tween is able to handle the social pressures, the emotional impact, the risks and the unpredictable nature of social media. Are they mature enough to stand up for what’s right? Can they use it responsibly? If not, even if they’re 13, they shouldn’t be on it.
Having a program to protect your children while on the internet is also a wise idea. I recommend Covenant Eyes because they not only protect your computer, but also cell phones and other electronic devices.
Once they’re on social media, you can have access to what they’re looking at and who is communicating with them. I would advise that you make sure you have that type of access until they’re older.
Love them unconditionally and in their preferred love language.
Some tweens will push away from their parents a bit during this time as they start moving towards being more independent. But truthfully, this is the time when they need to know they are loved unconditionally more than ever, especially with the way tweens and teens treat one another these days! If your tween starts to hide away in their room, or shirks away from your hug, try to find ways to love them according to their preferred love language. Maybe they need some encouraging words, or quality time where you do something they enjoy together. If you’re unfamiliar with love languages, check out the book “The Five Love Languages for Teenagers” by Gary Chapman
Listen to them, use eye contact, let them know you care about their concerns.
During a youth group meeting, the youth group leader was surprised at the openness of the 11- 12-year-old girls as they shared their struggles with relationships. She asked them what their parents thought about the questions they were raising, and all of the girls said that they didn’t talk with their parents about those things. “Why?” she asked. Sadly, they said their parents didn’t really listen to them or were too busy.
Make sure you’re taking time to really listen to your child, to hear their heart’s cry. When they tell you about how the other kids wouldn’t play with them, for example, they may be struggling with feeling like they’re not worthy of having friends.
Their self-esteem is fragile at this age, and they need to know that God made them just the way they are and that you and He love them just as they are!
Sincerely listening to them as they share their heart will go a long way in building your relationship with them and helping them feel valued.
Pray for them and with them often.
Our tweens need us to intercede to the Father for them during these years of change and transition. Never underestimate the power of prayer.
During the tween season for one of our boys, there was a time when he was struggling with his faith – would he really believe the way he had been raised, or would he go another way? We saw his struggle, talked with him, but especially prayed for him A LOT! When he shares his testimony now as an adult, he often shares about that time when he almost made the choice to go away from God. But God made Himself so real to him one day, that his life was transformed! Thank you, Jesus! He is now in full-time ministry and loves the Lord with all his heart. God cares about our children even more than we do and wants us to bring our concerns about them to Him.
As they share their struggles with you, make time to pray with them about their concerns. Hopefully, the more you take the time to listen, the more they’ll share with you. Show them how important it is to bring their worries, no matter how small, to God. And make sure to help them see when God answers!
The tween years are a time of transition for your child as they move from being a child to a teen, but they can also be a special time of bonding between you and your child if you take the time to really listen and support them through it. Seek God for wisdom and He’ll give you the guidance and insight you need!