A mother shares 5 life lessons she wants her kids to learn in their tween years.
When a child hits the tween years, the years between young childhood and becoming a teenager, change seems to come at warp speed. Kids enter a period of emotional, physical and social development that would leave any head reeling.
Do you remember? I know I do. I took many a trip down memory lane as I tried to put myself in my soon-to-be 12-year-old daughter’s shoes. What it was like to be at overnight summer camp with my best friend, sneaking glances at the cutest boy, hoping he would look at me, too. My first “boyfriend” and passing notes in the empty locker in the school hallway. The way my bangs were curled and hair-sprayed suddenly mattered — a lot. I remember feeling so grown up. I looked at my daughter and couldn’t imagine she was feeling those things, but I knew that if she hadn’t yet, she would be very soon.
As parents, we have the benefit of hindsight. We can look back at those years with affection (or maybe some of us would rather not look back at all?).
Here are five life lessons tweens should learn:
1. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe.
We live in a culture that sometimes makes it hard to take a stand because everything is seen as acceptable. Many times people are criticized for a strong belief that something is right or wrong, or for taking a strong stance on an issue. This can be scary for a tween trying to figure out where he or she fits. Encourage your child to take a stand anyway. If she doesn’t know how she feels about certain issues, encourage her to explore her feelings and to talk with you about them. Take the time to listen.
2. Let them know that they are enough.
It’s easy for tweens to feel like just one in the crowd. Our culture, and popular media, make boys and girls feel they are not enough: cool enough, skinny enough, smart enough, popular enough. They are forced to compare themselves to our culture’s ideal of perfection. Soon they’ll believe they will never be special. Let them know they are amazing just because of who they are. Instill in them the belief that they possess a unique set of talents and gifts suited just to them. Then be their biggest cheerleader. Encourage them to dream — listen to their dreams and believe in them.
3. Sometimes you lose.
On the flip side, it’s important for our kids to know that sometimes they will lose. Imagine the pee-wee soccer field, where everyone gets a trophy just for showing up. That might make the losing team feel better at the time, but as kids grow, they face the reality that they can’t always win, and that’s OK. It’s in failing that we have the most opportunity to learn.
4. Keep it real.
Our tweens are the first generation to grow up never knowing life without smartphones, iPads and social media. Most social interactions are done through devices, without ever seeing people face-to-face or hearing a human voice. This makes me sad; I cannot see how this is good for human relationships. Encourage your kids to have face-to-face conversations (or at least voice-to-voice) and model this yourself. Online friendships can be real, but I believe that real-life relationships are so much richer than online ones. Make sure tweens know that is important to have friends with whom they interact in real life, friends they can hug and see and talk to.
5. What you do and say has staying power.
Because of social media, what we do and say online can have a major effect on our future. Our tweens need to choose carefully what they post. Many don’t realize that everything they post — every photo, every word — can be seen by just about anyone and will remain accessible for years to come. What they post now can impact whether they get into their first-choice college. It can affect whether they are hired for a dream job. It’s so important that they understand the long-term consequences of choices they make today.
Talk with your kids. Tweens are such a fun group of people. They are trying to figure things out and are still willing to listen to us parents at this point.
This post was written by Jenny Yarbrough, a wife and mother raising three beautiful children in Nashville. She stays busy homeschooling, sewing, designing patterns and writing, among the many other things that mothers and wives do each and every day. You might find her sitting with her daughter at a local coffee shop, sipping a yummy drink and poring over schoolbooks, but rarely will you find her just sitting around.