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Everything You Need to Know About Your Growing Tween
I have two daughters aged 9 and 12. They are right in the middle of that
special, exciting horrifying, hair-pulling, frustrating time when you will find yourself dealing with an array of never-ending factors across different areas of development. I’m guessing you’re here because you’re in that same situation? Well, here is everything you need to know about your growing tween! I get you!
These areas of development can be given four little neat tags – Physical, Interpersonal, Mental, and Sexual. Yes, I said sexual.
If you didn’t already know, let me tell you something… it isn’t easy. Oh sweet baby Jesus, it is not easy!
During this period, your child will be will have a number of different personas. You may as well give these personas their own names so that you know which one you’re dealing with! Never-ending moods and personalities – crazy! It’s especially hard when you’re an introverted parent, like me... having to deal with so many different “people”. I just have to remind myself that I am dealing with the species that is the growing tween.
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Significant Areas of Development and How to Prepare for Them
1. Physical Development
This is probably the most obvious of the four areas of development, because you can actually see it happening.
In a nutshell, between the ages of 9 and 12, most young people will experience the following:
- Physical growth spurt – You may find that your young one will begin to develop in height and weight. What you may not be fully aware of – or perhaps finding difficulty in accepting – is the growth of their privates, breasts and genitalia.
- Puberty – As your young ones enter puberty, this triggers the hormonal production of testosterone (for males) and estrogen (for females).
While you may think this is a normal part of growing up ie, “Yes, I know that. Tell me something I don’t know”; what your tween experiences ie, “Oh dear God, what is happening to me?”, are the following:
- Sweat and body odour
- Zits and pimples, as a result of increased oil production in the body thanks to our Sebaceous Glands
- Body Hair growth – face, chest, and pubic
- For girls – hips may widen and their breasts begin to show. They also begin to ovulate and the menstrual cycle kicks in.
- For boys – shoulders broaden, sperm is produced, and privates mature
Remember when they used to giggle every time they heard the word boobs? These growth spurts can be quite confusing, intimidating, and even embarrassing for your child.
If you observe closely,you will note that these physical changes and developmental spurts actually go hand in hand with the other areas (mental, interpersonal, and sexual).
2. Sexual Development
As your child enters puberty, they begin to have a keener sense of awareness that they are turning into a teenager / young adult. You hear them start saying, “I know! OMG! I’m 9 years old!” or “Why can’t I? Dude, I’m 12 years old!.” Apart from these stroppy retorts and behavioural glitches, what you may not be aware of is what they have begun to feel on the inside:
- They are becoming more aware and self conscious of their sexuality
- They become curious and begin to think in a sexual way
- They may hold guilty feelings about having sexual thoughts and performing sexual actions such as masturbation
Think about it… they used to think the concept of love was only within the family and that kissing was gross; and yet, here they are, starting to think about it. That alone can be mighty confusing for a young person.
This area of development, in turn, affects your child’s interpersonal and social development. Like I said, they all joyously go hand in hand!
3. Interpersonal and Social Development
This is when family becomes secondary to peers. At this stage in their lives, your young ones will begin to value the opinions, thoughts, and acceptance of their peers.
They begin to:
- Find importance in fitting in and being accepted
- Put care and thought in their physical appearance. They will want to try new clothing styles and shop at different stores.
- Experience romantic (and sexual) thoughts
- Desire more privacy and separation from family. It is no longer a cool thing to hold Mum or Dad’s hand in public.
Because of the greater care they have put into how their peers view them, you may notice a drop or switch in your child’s self-esteem. Confusing right? It is even more so for your young one.
4. Mental Development
As your growing tween begins to mature in other areas of their lives, it is expected that there will be an increase in their Mental Development. This means that your child will:
- Seek more independence – whether in school activities, personal appearance, or anything to do them (which in reality, is everything in their world). They will no longer ask for your help in daily activities. At least, not as much as they used to.
- Change their media preferences. They now feel a need to watch videos or read books that they can immerse and imagine themselves in.
- Be capable of managing greater responsibility – self, home, and school.
How To Support Your Tween During This Time
1. Encourage your growing tween to talk
And when they do, you’d better make sure you listen!
- Remind your child that “Home is a safe place.”
- Your child will not want to talk right away. It may take a few times of repeating yourself before they reach out. That’s fine. Give them time.
2. Let them know that what they are going through is absolutely normal
- physically and sexually
- Tell them about your own experiences (with edits, of course).
- Let them know that everyone develops at a different rate.
3. Give them privacy (within reason)
- Even if they need privacy, it is still our responsibility as parents, to guide them.
- Keep the house rules, but adjust them as necessary.
4. Let them know that there is more growth to come and more phases to experience
- By showing your growing tween a glimpse of the future (perhaps something better), you give them the comfort in knowing that what they are going through is not the end of the world. This is a great range for Tweens, if you need it.
5. Talk about sex
- Despite what The Activist Mommy may say, I personally believe that our children need the facts and details to make informed decisions. For the record, I don’t think anal sex is a goody, BUT(T) – see what I did there? – if the school playground is talking about it and fostering curiosity on the subject; wouldn’t you feel more at ease, if your child comes to you to talk about it? So return to point 1 above, and encourage your child to talk. When they do, you’d better make sure you listen.
- Even if your child does not appear to be interested or even listening, I can guarantee you that everything you say will linger in their minds. They will choose to use that information when they are ready.
So hang on to your hair, dear mama. I know it can be tough! If you feel like you need a break – why not take our FREE 30-Day Love Yourself Challenge and make the next 30 days all about YOU!