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Meet the Tween

“Mom, you know what I don’t get. I don’t get why why people want me to act more grown up and then they treat me like a baby. Then when I act like I’m younger, they tell me to grow up. I feel like I’m stuck in between and don’t fit in anywhere.”

These are the words my ten year old recently shared with me. There is often talk about young children and older teens, but what about the group of kids that in between – that group that is not quite a child and not quite a teen?

Formerly referred to as pre-teens, this group of kids is now commonly called tweens. The term “tween” stands for “in between” a child and a teenager. It generally refers to kids who are 9 to 13 years old or in grades 4 to 8.

I’ll be the first to admit that many eons ago before I had children, I didn’t quite understand the tween phenomenon. I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. When I grew up in the late 70′s and early 80′s, you went straight from childhood to teen. There was no in-between. There now is.

No longer “little” kid and not quite “big, this group truly encompass the space between. Tweens are sort of like proverbial middle children – often confused about exactly where they fit in – even within this age group. Kids, ages 9-13, ride a fine line of still wanting to play with toys while simultaneously being preoccupied with boy/girl friendships and appearance. That level of that preoccupation is what transitions them between being a younger tween, older tween and finally full-fledged teen.

As a parent, where does leave with you? If you are like most parents of tweens, confused: confused about your role, about how to get through him, about why she keeps rolling her eyes and about where you even go from here in terms of guiding your child through what could best be described as Mr. Toads Wild Ride. The long answer is the same as the short answer: you go where you both lead each other. Sometimes you both will be headed in the same direction. Other times, well, not so much. (I find it is like that with most things in life, right?) The one thing I can tell you with certainty, though, is that your tween needs you. He needs you to listen, to ask, to share. She needs you to help her define what a tween is, who a tween is. And, most importantly, your tween wants – needs – to know that, at any age, he or she matters…especially to you.