Helping Your Child Through Their Pre-Tween Years

Each stage of your child's life requires a steep learning curve as a parent. From finding the right baby bottle that your little one will drink from, all the way through to picking the right college, each stage is fraught and met with a lot of home truths, but also you learn so much as a parent. With each stage and development, you try your best to be there for them every step of the way, but there are some things they are going to have to experience without you being there to protect them. The pre-tween years, roughly between the ages of 8 and 10, goes through many significant developments in their life. Of course, this term “tween” is something that was coined by a marketing firm, but it's a very handy term to define as a difficult period before the teenage years set in. Your child is going through elementary school, and are learning, not just the basics as far as reading writing and arithmetic are concerned, but they are still unsettled in their own bodies. So, as a parent, is there anything you can do to help navigate your child through their pre-tween years, to ensure a well-rounded person, but also, what are the common emotional difficulties pre-tweens face?

Body Development

It's unclear as to why, but girls as young as seven are starting to develop in a physical sense quicker than ever before. Some girls are going to develop early regardless, but it seems to be more commonplace now. As a result, advancement in their body means early onset of body image issues. Feeling self-conscious is commonplace in every child, and as we all know, it can develop long into adulthood, and could even remain for the rest of our lives. But, the important thing for you to do as a parent in order to ensure this transition is met with as minimal self-consciousness as possible, is to shift the focus away from these generalized body issues. It can be helpful to say that “all your friends are going through the same thing”, but this is such a cliché that your child is unlikely to heed your advice. And as children end up being put in situations where they feel exposed, such as the changing room, or swimming lessons, this feeling can be amplified. As a result, you can help to improve the situation for your son or daughter, you can buy swimwear for children that are modest or not as revealing, which may help to soften the issue. As girls will begin to feel upset about the fact that they are developing so fast, but are still approaching the situation as a child, what you can do is to take the focus away from bodily appearances, and go towards the things that make your child individual. Things like a sense of humor, specific skills, or personality traits that make them unique and wonderful.

Trapped Between Childhood And Teenage-Hood

It's a difficult age, between 8 and 10, because not only are they developing at such a rapid rate, physically and emotionally, but they are at an in-between age where they want to emulate children slightly older, but early school memories still loom large. Now, with the prevalence of social media, and the media in general, providing such an influence, it's almost forcing children to grow up quicker. It's vital, as a parent, to let your child be a child. This means encouraging the act of play. At this point, you don't want to be forcing too much in the way of life structure. The fact that they're going to school Monday to Friday should be structure enough. And while they're still learning their own abilities, it's important for you to encourage all of these different explorations. From their intellectual exploration, to their physical play, but also their creative leanings. Now, technology is advancing at such a rate that it's forcing everyone to overthink and to grow up well before they need to. And it could very well be that you've given your child a phone for necessity, but that's not to say you shouldn't impose limits on texting, phone time, and internet use. At this age, playing in the backyard can begin to lose its allure, and the internet, and its various features are incredibly attractive to a child at this age. And while these activities are predominantly teen-related, the influence of older children forces these kids to begin to emulate these behaviors. What you can do as a parent is to encourage play and discovery as much as possible, before the emotional and mental barriers (that every single one of us has set up in our teenage years) becomes a defining feature of our psychological makeup.

Use Your Parenting Time Wisely

As any parent of a teenager will tell you, you've essentially lost them for a few years as soon as they turn 13. At this key stage, between the ages of 8 and 10, every child is still close to their parents, and at this point, you should do what you can to cement a solid relationship. Of course, now, it's very difficult to do so, because we are working parents, and so we rely on breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, and the like. As a result, our children can feel like they have a closer bond with their teachers than they do with us. So, while the novelty of them being excited to see us when we come home is still fresh, we have to take advantage of this. This means playing with them, doing their activities with them, but also, developing that trust. We need to ensure that our children can come to us if they have problems. Many emotional issues will arise at this key stage in their lives, and they will begin to feel upset about certain social issues in school, or in life, and you need to be the person they should talk to. When they become a teenager, they can be a closed book, and so, it's this vital point in their life that you have to make more time for them than you have before, as it will serve both of you well.

Helping your child through their pre-tween years is a considerable challenge, but one that is definitely beneficial in the long run. They say the teenage years are the key time period for development, where they find out who they are, but it is the pre-tween years where you can still guide them towards a well-rounded life.