Warning – Tween Alert!

Date: 7 February, 2017
Tags: tween, teenager, growing up, parenting

“Whatever.” And he stormed upstairs stomping like a mini-elephant all the way...

I just stood there a little bit shocked staring up the stairs to see if he would come out of his bedroom or that the whole situation would just re-wind and undo itself. How did my sweet, funny, affectionate boy turn into this cheeky hormonal monster that was throwing attitude at me!?

As tempting as it was to join in with the battle knowing I'd win, I reminded myself that I was the adult so I bit my tongue, swallowed my pride and left him to it! I'd had a long day and realised that if I'd followed him upstairs then that would probably determine how the rest of our evening went.  

Coby, my son, my pride and joy has always been a pretty easy-going child.  He's sensitive, sweet and really good fun! Not shy, but he's polite, and I've come to realise he is also fiercely loyal.  So when this back-chat and bad attitude really kicked in I was admittedly frustrated.  He even had me in tears one evening on holiday last year! I just felt like there was no getting through to him that it wasn't acceptable to be like he was being to anyone, never mind me - his Mum - his source of everything! To me it is totally disrespectful to be like that with a parent.

What nobody tells you or warns you is that there's a HUGE change in your child from the moment they finish primary school to literally the first day of senior school - honestly!

I don't think I realised just how big a change it would be.  

I'd never even heard of the term 'tween' until then and I've since realised that parenting a tween (or preteen) is a tad challenging! You've got hormones kicking in, pressures from their peer groups, social media dramas and an increasing need for independence - all scary for us - but even newer and scarier for them! Throw in homework, discipline, and spending time together - everything is different!

One thing I've always focused on with Coby is that I want to be close to him, want him to talk to me and overall for him to feel secure.  I think all children at every stage in their life need to feel they have a secure nest, and with tweens it's just as big a deal as they are being launched into something really exciting but also pretty scary! Home should continue to be their safe zone.  I feel anxious sometimes that if we ever do lose the connection we have then he'll go looking elsewhere for it and end up in 'the wrong crowd'.

The world is blooming scary - we know that! But my son is learning in small ways that not everyone is nice, not everyone cares - and people can be very manipulating! He's had his items stolen from him at school, a weird stalker on the Musically app (a whole new blog post there) and drama's with a few friends. So, I've come to a realisation that the only way for all of us to get through this tween stage and to be prepared for the actual tough stuff - teen years - is to keep this strong bond with him.  

Here's my plan on how I hope to make it work:

Keep the bond

It's unrealistic to say we will have tea together every night - but I will try to do it as often as possible.  It's our time to chat about our days, for him to keep me in the loop but also for me to pick up on any issues that could turn into anything else.  I feel sitting together and spending one-on-one time is extremely valuable.  Just a quick 15-minute chat can reveal so much sometimes.

I've planned a long weekend away to Dubrovnik this April - just me and him. But equally as productive a lunch together would do the trick.  During this time, I'll be careful to listen rather than talk or lecture him but I overall I plan to just have some fun with him. 

Go with the flow

Coby is really striving to be more independent and I'm thinking that if I go with this and allow certain things then I'm more likely to reduce rebelliousness. If I say no to everything then he's bound to feel trapped and, if anything, like he's missing out.

Independence teaches us lots of skills so trips to the local town with his friends is allowed, walking or cycling to the park to play football for an hour - all with their conditions, but still allowed.  I'm happy with this, even if it does make me feel scary, but I just remind myself I'm the one still in control and we still have trust between us. He doesn't break the rules and I'm trusting him to behave how he should, whilst not breathing down his neck at the same time. He's really good with it too - mobile phones are a god-send in this situation! I'm sure he'll test the limits at some point, but let's deal with that as it happens! 

Choose my battles 

It's really difficult to do but I plan to ignore the things that don't really matter. I can't fall out with him over every single little thing - if he's going to be in my bad books I'll make sure it's for a good reason. Which also leads me to:

Don't take it personally!

When Coby slams his door or shouts something at me I'm not going to over-react or take it personally.  That doesn't mean I'm going to accept it and make him think that's ok - no way! But I am going to remind him about respect and that if I give it to him, I expect exactly the same back. 

Personality & appearance 

I've noticed small changes in Coby's personality the last few months, and some I love! He cracks more jokes, is sometimes cleverly witty but he's also become nicely protective and caring of his friends as well as his family. He hates seeing his friends get name-called or bullied and as he's not afraid to voice his opinions and he'll stand up for them. I think this is fab! How many times have you looked back at school memories and wished you'd not been afraid to speak up? I've obviously explained to him that he needs to recognise when not to get involved but otherwise well done for being strong! 

With this in hand I've noticed he does care about his appearance a tad more, we still argue over how to brush his teeth properly - weekly! But he's more attentive to what he's wearing and I'm really trying to support this. Although yesterday he bought a cap and insisted it's cool to leave the sticker on the front!! What??! I even asked the young shop assistant who confirmed that yes, the sticker stays on!!

He's into his music and I'm trying to stay open minded about that too and I let him play it on the car when he asks. I listen about his interests (currently YouTube) and make time to try and understand it all - I don't! 

I'm sure there's lots more I'll need to consider but for now this is my plan. Unless you have any tips and have been through and survived please do let me know! 

Natalie xx 



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