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Navigating the Difficult Tween Years

girls guide to life

What’s the hardest age? In my opinion, it’s the difficult tween years.

Too old to play with toys, too young to enjoy more mature activities. It’s tough and I know first-hand; I have several tweens in my house.

My 12-year-old son, especially, is caught between childhood and manhood. He has younger siblings and older siblings and I watch him struggle to find his place. I feel for the guy. After all, I was 12 once myself.

So I work hard to keep the connection with my tweens. I listen to their problems and try not to give too much advice. I give them special little treats – like sneaking them their favorite candy or a new book from a series they love – that is just for them. I write them notes and keep their favorite foods around. I want them to feel seen and understood.

One of the most important things I do to stay close to my tweens is to give them respect.

My goal is to teach them that their ideas have value.

When my tweens come to me with an idea, even if it’s not the best, I always listen and ask questions. “How do you see that working?” and “What do you think about writing that down?” are some of my favorite responses. I want them to see that I am interested in what they think and also in expanding their ideas into usable plans if possible. I always try to put their ideas to use if I can.

Also, I will go out of my way to ask their opinion on things. “Honey, I am making the grocery list. Do you think we should add a salad to the meal we are taking to the Smiths?” or maybe, “Do you have any ideas for how we can better keep up with the mess in the garage?”.

Don’t get the wrong idea here; it’s not easy! I will often catch myself the second before a criticism flies out of my mouth. I have to make myself stop from cutting them off and taking over a chore. I have to remind myself that they need to spread their wings and that will often be an inconvenience to me. Sure I know better… I’m a responsible adult. But they have to learn to become a responsible adult too.

I have seen my tweens blossom when I show that I value what they think. They become more interested in leading with godliness and taking on real responsibility when you show respect and trust for them.

Another longer-lasting benefit is that it teaches them what it is like to be respected so that they will look for that in a mate. If my sons understand being respected by a godly woman then they will want that in a wife. And the same is true for my girls – they need to seek out people who will respect them in all areas of their lives.

When I am talking with my tweens about deeper issues than groceries and laundry, I continue to ask questions. Reading a book together like A Guy’s Guide to Life or A Girl’s Guide to Life can open up a healthy conversation that will allow you to ask their thoughts on some of the tougher issues they face.

Even though I am nearly 112 years old (in the minds of some of my kids), I can still remember how it felt to be a tween. Through respect, a listening ear and some favorite cookies, we can help them navigate those between years and come out strong and secure.

Your Turn

How have you helped your kids navigate the difficult tween years?