Forget the “terrible twos”, tween years are hard for everyone, including teachers, coaches, and caregivers, but a new study shows that these years are especially hard on moms. Middle school is the most trying time for children with the combination of adolescence, growing peer pressure, hormonal changes and their search for a unique identity. Since moms place such a large amount of their identity on the well-being of their kids, it makes sense that this time is especially difficult for them as well.
Many people assume the first year of motherhood is the most difficult, with the new learnings, fears, and anxieties that come along with an infant. Interestingly, though, a new study from the National Institutes of Health say that raising a tween is the most stressful. This could be because new moms usually have an abundance of support, both emotionally and physically, during this huge transition. Their worries and fears revolve around feedings, sleeping schedules and other things within their control. Once kids reach their tween years, the stressors become more complex and often include issues like bullying, sex, social media, puberty, and relationships . This is a time where kids are maturing at different speeds and adjusting to more independence in the middle school setting.
The stress a mother feels as her kids move into their tween years doesn’t all come from outside factors. Because mothers’ identities are tied closely to their children’s well-being, they are more in tune with the emotional distance teenagers have during this developmental stage. The reality of “role overload” is prevalent during tween years, with moms trying to handle schedules, jobs, and family roles all at once. While some of these factors are out of a mom’s control, there are ways we can stay better connected to our kids during this difficult time.
HOW TO STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR TWEEN
Spend Disconnected Time Together: This may seem obvious, but it’s SO important to spend time with your kids detached from phones, TV, and the internet. This is especially important during the tween years when kids are starting to become more independent and are dealing with societal pressures. Take time to go for a walk, play with the dog, eat dinner as a family and engage with your kids on a personal level. Many parents walk in the door looking at their phones these days. Put the phone down and make your kids a priority by connecting face to face without distractions.
Be Aware of Pop Culture Dangers: As kids enter their tween years, they’ll be more and more influenced by pop culture. This is inevitable, but it’s important for parents to limit exposure and help tweens develop self-confidence in things outside of pop culture. For parents concerned about the content their kids are ingesting via social media, tools allow parents to stay in the know with their tweens social media use. It’s also good to encourage kids to detach from the internet and pursue passions like sports or music to help them build a strong sense of self and individualism.
Stay Involved in School Work: As kids enter middle school, their school work gets progressively more difficult. Parents can engage and help them work through projects, stay on task, and meet deadlines by keeping up with their schedules and offering help when needed. This not only strengthens the bond between parents and kids, but also teaches them important life skills about time management, delayed gratification, and staying on task.
Accept Your Tweens Need for Independence: One of the toughest things for moms during the tween years is understanding their child’s need for independence. Parents often overcompensate when their kids start to rebel but instead try setting reasonable limits and understanding when kids try to push them. Being firm, but loving is key during these years.
Don’t Downplay Hormones: As women, we understand the reality of hormonal changes, but for tweens, this is their first time dealing with these changes in their bodies. They can be moody and go into tantrums without fully understanding why or what is happening. This is a key time for parents to connect with kids, explain what is happening to them, react with sympathy and compassion, but still teach them self-control.
Don’t Take It Personally: Tweens are going through a lot of changes in their bodies, social scene, school workload, and other factors. They may act out, and while it’s not okay to be disrespectful (and every parent should teach them that) it is important for parents not to take it too personally. It’s a difficult time for everyone as tweens start to desire independence and parents have to remember to stand their ground and not overreact in these trying situations.