Since the internet and calendar tell me I’ve got a kid approaching age 13, I offer you my eight things you need to know about raising a tween.
1) Silence is Golden … Sometimes
I get it, dads, you’re fixers. Same here. But when you’re raising a tween you will find she is going to go through some stuff that you can’t fix, complicated stuff that she doesn’t even want you to try to fix. Often during this time, a steady shoulder to lean on — literally and figuratively — is all that’s required of you. You’ll know when your sage advice and vaguely related stories from your own youth are needed, and then you can strap on your cape and save the day.
2) What Are You Wearing … and Why Is Your Hair Purple?
Tweens will, especially if they weren’t permitted to have any decision-making power in their ‘younger days,’ push the boundaries and your buttons when it comes to fashion. While you should have been granting them this freedom all along, it is important to understand they are trying to define themselves to the world. This is a good and important thing. So pick your battles wisely. Eventually, the “can I color my hair?” or “who said you could color your hair?” conversation will happen. Have a spare towel and a pair of plastic gloves at the ready.
3) What Your Face Is Really Saying
Michelle Icard nails it in her great book Middle School Makeover: you may think you are saying nothing while your tween opens up about him or her or them or it but your face is anything but quiet. Raising a tween means paying more attention to your facial expressions than you ever thought necessary. Listen to the Modern Dads Podcast with Michelle Icard about this very topic!
4) Can We Talk About That Smell?
Babies smell like rainbows, toddlers like every food ever made AND then combined, but tweens … tweens smell like sweat and hormones and awkwardness. Water bill be damned, daily showers are now essential.
5) Coming Unhinged
Usually by using nothing more than a Phillips head screwdriver, you can take a door off its hinges. Keep this in mind if door slamming becomes a part of your life when raising a tween because it gets awfully hard to slam something that isn’t there.
Now for a few things that might fly in the face of conventional wisdom about raising a tween …
6) Never Too Old For A Snuggle
Admittedly, it might not happen as frequently as when they were 5 and maybe not in front of certain (or any) friends, but your tweens will still crave a good snuggle and they won’t necessarily refuse a hand to hold while walking into the Lucius concert with you either.
7) You Can’t Spell SCHOOL Without FUN
OK, so none of the letters in “fun” are found in “school” but tweens, while obviously growing up, are still kids and kids like having fun. That’s a fact. It’s important to remember not to strip all of the school time fun away just because the kids are starting to look like mini-adults.
8) TYS R STILL FN 2
It’s not all texting and dystopian books with tweens, or at least it doesn’t have to be. Littlest Pets, Matchbox cars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, LEGO, Minions, and more: pop culture toy icons don’t fade away when a kid turns 10 (only to return a decade later when that kid is suddenly a hipster 20-year-old), they are still fun and if given the opportunity to enjoy an elongated childhood, your tween can and will still be a kid.
A version of this first appeared on Out with the Kids. Photo: Jeff Bogle