The Tween Challenge has definitely hit our house.
I have been an early years teacher for over 20 years and would consider myself an expert on young children, especially 4 to 6 year olds as that is where the bulk of my experience has been. However, now that my own kids are beyond that, I am totally in foreign territory.
I find as the mom of a tween, I am constantly having to “right the ship” and make adjustments in my parenting. Everyday seems to bring with it new questions or situations that I was in no way prepared for and quite honestly I often don’t have a clue how to respond. I am always seeking knowledge, good advice and sound parenting tips from books, friends and family, and/or Google to help me through.
What is a Tween Anyways?
When people refer to a tween, they are often referring to a child between the ages of 10 and 12….bigger and more mature than a child, but not yet a teenager.
What makes the tween years so challenging are the overwhelming number of changes that tweens encounter in this short span of their lives. They are no longer early years students, but now walk the halls and hang-out with the middle years students in the school. With the move to “middle years” comes extra opportunity and responsibility. Students are often able to opt into clubs and join school teams that were not offered to them as an early years student. Perhaps they’d like to be a patrol, or a library helper or maybe join a school leadership team. All of the new opportunities are very exciting, but at the same time can be taxing on some kids, especially if they make too many commitments, in addition to those they have outside of school. Often tweens also have a heavier classroom work load and additional homework.
Other Tween Changes and Challenges
If all of the above is not enough for a child that has just hit double digits, lets add the early onset of puberty to the mix. This is an excerpt from an article published in The Observer, in 2012.
They found that in 1860, the average age of the onset of puberty in girls was 16.6 years. In 1920, it was 14.6; in 1950, 13.1; 1980, 12.5; and in 2010, it had dropped to 10.5.
Alarming! It just seems so young to have to face so many changes in their body. I believe that this is especially hard for tween girls. Many young girls bulk-up prior to puberty. It is their body’s way of preparing for what is to come. While still trying to understand this and come to terms with their new fuller form, many tweens are also beginning to develop breasts and start their first period, but of course, that is not all. They discover they don’t smell as pretty as they used to and now have to shower every day and wear deodorant. To top that off they have hair on their legs that makes them feel too embarrased to dress for the weather and thus they sweat even more! Ugh! Where does the maddness stop? How about the daily barrage of images of “flawless” girls with “perfect” faces and bodies plastered over every billboard, advertisement, magazine, etc. Check out the Dove video called Beauty Pressure to see what are girls are dealing with.
Tweens Are Often Lost in the Gap Between Childhood and a Teenager
It is no wonder tweens are so confused and emotional. They mourn the blissful childhood that seemed to end in a blink and yet are excited about being “more grown-up”. So many mixed emotions, coupled with the multiple physical and social changes they are feeling can sometimes leave a tween feeling alone and sad, despite having people around them that love them deeply.
Self-esteem is a raising issue and I believe that tweens just don’t have the maturity to process all of these changes and feelings the way that our “16.6” year old ancestors did in the 1860’s. The young ladies of the 1800’s were going through puberty shortly before becoming an adult, while ours have just stepped out of their early years classrooms. Yikes!
What Can We Do to Support Our Young Girls Through This Process?
I certainly don’t have many answers and believe that if there is a mistake to be made, I have done it. However, I have found some really great resources that I would love to share.
- If you have not yet watched these videos, they are produced by Dove and really great in helping to understand body image: Dove Real Beauty Sketches, The Evolution of Beauty
- Learn and talk about Body Image and Self-Esteem. Gain an understanding of the differences between the two.
- Know and understand the stages of puberty so that you can be ready for them and observe where your daughter is at.
- If you are interested, Dove also has a PDF that makes a great reference. It is a Teacher’s book from one of their Self-Esteem courses, so it is very relevant.
- I heard about a great magazine for young girl’s called Moon Magazine. We have just ordered a subscription.
- Unfortunately, I just learned about this course and how excellent it was through my cousin who went through it with her daughter. I called to register and we are first on the waiting list because the class for this fall is full. It is called Mothers and Daughters in Touch and sounds amazing.