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The many faces of parenting a tweenager

Having a ‘tweenage’ daughter was a stage I hadn’t given any thought to until, suddenly, there she was, my bright and shining tween. I think parenting every step of my girls’ lives so far has given me a mixture of emotions. Joy, astonishment, fear, utter confusion, nostalgia and sadness. Surely that’s not just me? Parenting a tween is a whole new ballgame.

Parenting a tween

What I notice and love about my current tween is:

    • My child who used to beg for more family time than we could possibly give, has now discovered that hanging out with her friends is much more important.
    • From a clingy, “mummy’s girl”, she suddenly no longer needs me. She is learning that her (gradually increasing) bursts of independence feel great.
    • She is suddenly very clearly able to differentiate right from wrong and is not afraid to speak up for herself and others. I admire this so much!
    • I sometimes feel that she is just a bit too clever for me and is leaving me behind in the world of knowledge.
    • She’s being brave! Her world is expanding and she’s taking every opportunity thrown her way, telling her anxiety to step out of the way, here she comes!

The transition

When I think that I’ve lost my baby – that she has one foot out the door, ready to begin her own life – back she comes. A grab for the hand as we cross the street, asking a question that reminds me she is still only 12, cuddling up and watching a movie. She is still my little girl – and I’m holding on for dear life!

I watch my tween and her friends talking about love interests (too young!!!), MA+ concepts, and big ideas. Then suddenly they’re playing a game of make-believe, singing and dancing to musicals, and little girls again. Oh, let them hold onto this time for as long as they can!

Storm girl

Then there are the mood swings!

Something that I eventually learned from my first tween (who is now a teen) was recognising that those angry outbursts are entirely natural, and that they’ll be directed at their safe people. I have learned to breathe and ride these rapid storms that subside as quickly as they started – usually followed by tearful apologies from storm girl and cuddles.

Parental role change

I used to be “the cool mum” (that’s what I told them anyway) who gave great themed parties and would happily let a group of kids apply face paint on me until I was no longer recognisable. I thought of the fun ideas and kept the kids entertained.

Now my role is changing and I know I have to be all good with that – but it’s hard when you’re a kid at heart (as many ADHD’ers will attest)! These gorgeous kids are very kindly, and gently leading me to my new role – that of a mum that they like, enjoy talking to, but expect to leave the room at some stage and not butt in on what’s going on in their lives. 

I’m gradually learning where my boundaries are. I’m constantly reminding myself “don’t ask too many questions, don’t be too interested in their lives, don’t try to be the one at the centre of the conversation.” All while still being a safe haven when they need it.

It’s exhausting I tells you!

My own personal challenge

What I hadn’t expected was the return of my anxiety – the extent of which I haven’t felt since my girls were babies! Watching my girl start a new high school where none of her closest friends are, trying to find her people, and me feeling that I can no longer go to teachers and ask for their help.  Knowing that she is on her own and needs to solve this one for herself.

She, of course, is rising to the challenge, and in my heart, I know she’ll be fine – but can someone please explain that to my panic attacks? 

I realise that my experience is just one of many, so I went to my “mummy brains trust” and asked them for their words of wisdom when it comes to raising tweens.  These women are often the ones I go to for my sanity checks – they are more laid back than me and seem to have this parenting thing down pat! 

Parent’s collective thoughts

“I realised quite early in my parenting journey that you can’t really parent each kid exactly the same because they’re all so different. Not just gender, but personality, emotions, motivations etc. I do think they need to learn independence in measured doses in the tween years. They need to know we trust them to make their own decisions, but Mum & Dad will always back them up in all situations, good and bad (except for when he doesn’t wear proper school uniform. If he gets a detention that’s his problem). “

“My husband’s Nanna (Mum of 3 feisty boys in as many years) always believed in keeping them busy with sport/activities/hobbies etc to keep them out of trouble. Which sounds very 1950’s, but I do think kids that age need something to occupy them, whether it be active, creative or just something they enjoy. And having friends outside their everyday school friends helps too. Friends are super important at this age.  Anyway, that’s my parenting wisdom of the day. I’m really just procrastinating and avoiding the vacuum” . (*Note from Nicci – this is why I love this lady – procrastination and I are great friends!)

“Pick your battles. Help and guide them to make (good) decisions…. but don’t make the decisions for them. Keep them busy in well-rounded and wide variety of activities.”

“Teach them to respect the fact everyone is different and therefore will react and need different things at different times in their life.”

“Have fun together, you’re never too old or too tall for hugs!”

“Oh, and I will not drop your hat/laptop/ drink bottle/homework off at school because you forgot to pack it… but if you’re anywhere where you feel uncomfortable or not safe day or night I will pick you up!”

“Let your child know that you’ll always take the blame if they need to get out of a difficult situation. Blame us, we can take the heat if it means they stay safe and make good choices. Tell them your mum is lame, old fashioned and strict and you have to go home. Tell them anything, I will always be okay with it. Also, teach them how good it feels to make someone’s day. These bursts of happiness, can make a huge difference in balancing the hormonal downs of tweenage”  



Audir | people

Nicci Richman – Owner

Description: Audir is a People Development consultancy that supports workplaces to create environments in which all their people can thrive. Nicci founded Audir to highlight and facilitate the richness and strengths that neuro-diverse individuals bring to the workplace. “I believe everyone deserves to belong, to have a meaningful career and work life, to be valued for their strengths and have the freedom to be who they really are.”

Phone: 0417 373 351

E: nicci@audir.com.au

W: http://www.audir.com.au

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