Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tweenage: The Nightmares Begin

Tweenager/Tween...those years between child and teenager.  I am looking at the tweenage years right now; as the mom of a 9 year old boy.  And it's S-C-A-R-Y!  The days seem to fly right by but those scary moments seem to last FOREVER.  If you have one then you know what I mean.

Emotions-Think pregnant woman and you're totally in the tween zone.  They skyrocket up and down, back and forth like a pin ball in an arcade game.  Zing to the left and then bounce off the wall before being flung in another direction.  One moment he is just going with the flow and then something changes.  He can get silly and crazy out of hand like he's on a sugar high.  Then he'll crash and be crying and upset about something.  Or raging mad.  9 times out of 10 he's way overreacting and I can't settle him down.  Drama much?  It's not just a girl thing (though girls can be worse).  But he doesn't see it.  Mom is always wrong and being mean and that sets those emotions off in yet another direction.  Occasionally, I'll get the helpful tween side and I love this side. It's rare and I'll take it when I can get it. This morning when I was in a mood because we were running behind (again) and everyone else got to eat while I made breakfast and lunches (for everyone but me) he up and offered to put away the clean dishes in the dishwasher.  I tried not to look too stunned because we had just been bickering moments before.  Some mood swing I tell you!  But I was grateful and accepted the help.  I got to finally eat breakfast and he felt good from helping out.  Proud mama here.  I pray for more of those kind of moments but I won't get my hopes too high.

Hormones-You know they're starting to simmer.  I've seen his covert looks at cute girls.  And his eyes glaze over just a bit when Selena Gomez is on tv.  I know girls his age are crushing on Justin Bieber and other such cuties.  I think it's sweet but fear the real deal crushes ahead and hope his feelings are not crushed by some prima donna chick.

Uncertainty-Some kids this age are full of bravado but most are still finding their sea legs.  They are uncertain about most things around them.  i.e. friends, the opposite sex, school, sports, peer pressure and more.  They just want to fit in with everyone.  This stage of childhood scares the bejeebers out of me and I know it tends to run right through the teenage years.  I want my tween to believe in himself.  I want him to make the choices he know is right.  I want him to be a leader, not a follower.  I want him to stick up for himself, his beliefs and what he knows is right.  Try to build confidence in your tween(ager) and be their behind the scenes cheerleader. 

Friendships-This is the time that cliques start to really develop and children can become ostracized.  Or they can become an arrogant, know it all and bully.  Keep your ear to the ground to avoid these two negative scenarios.  You want to prevent these. Your child can easily be in or be out.  Many a times kids are casted out on whim because kids this age like the feeling of power over one another.  Friends they've had for years can suddenly morph into beings you've never seen before.  As parents we need to keep our eyes and ears open.  We need to help guide them through the minefield of  friendship drama without feeding into it.  We need to be supportive.  We need to listen and encourage open dialogue.  And, if heaven forbid, our child happens to be the one ostracizing others we need to speak openly with them.  They don't need to be everyone's friend.  They don't need to keep the same friends.  However, they need to treat each other with respect and the way they would like to be treated.  I'm a firm believer in the golden rule. 

Testing Boundaries-Leading into the teenage years our children will test boundaries more and more. It's common for children of all ages.  At this age though they can be more secretive about it.  Or more blatant.  Either way is difficult.  We have to be patient and on guard.  We need to allow boundaries to be tested but make them aware of why they are there.  Also, we need to communicate when the boundaries will shift, be more flexible or lifted and why.

Appearance-And last but not least their appearance will start to change and (most likely) go into that awkward phase.  Bushy hair, skin inflammations, acne, body odor, new hair growth in many places, etc.  We have to make sure we speak to them about these changes.  Preferably before they happen.  We don't want our tween to feel like they need to hide it or that they can't talk about it.  Be open with them.  Provide guidance in new hygiene areas...deodorant, hair products, skin cleanser, shaving lessons, etc. They may not be comfortable talking to you about this so you need to be casual about it.  Feel your way carefully so you don't hurt their feelings or cause more confusion.  Information is a good thing here so they don't feel too self conscious.  As I said, hormones are beginning to rage.  Bodies are developing, some quicker than others.  Be there to offer advice.

Beware parents.  These are shark infested waters we are entering.  Tween years are just the beginning because up next are the even scarier teenage years.  Good luck to us all!  And just remember to be there for support.  Offer advice, your ear, or a shoulder.  Whatever they need.  They'll remember it....sometime into their 20's but they will remember it and be thankful!

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