THE TWEEN YEARS
When my daughter was younger, friends with tweens gave me dire warnings: "It's a whole new world -- much worse than the terrible twos." "You won't believe the change in your kid -- like night and day." "Just wait until they hit middle school; brace yourself."
The Good News: You Have a New Buddy
Yes, I know, your job description doesn't read: "My Kid's Best Friend." And, no, you're not equals. But the tween years provide endless opportunities to bond on a deeper level than you did when your child was little. I can take my 11 year old out to lunch and have a completely different experience from a few years ago, when a trip to a restaurant meant watching them color the kids' menu and knock over their milk. Now we discuss everything from their friendships to current movies to politics. (And if they have to go to the bathroom, they find it on their own.)
The Good News: You're Past the Do-Everything Stage
When the tween years come around, it's exhilarating to be free of the drudgery that comes with parenting small children: wiping bottoms, pouring juice, tying shoes. Not only that, but tweens can actually help around the house in meaningful ways, like emptying the dishwasher and taking out garbage.
Make It Even Better: Some parents mistakenly equate dependence with love, they feel that if he doesn't need me, he doesn't love me - do you really want to be cutting your kid's sandwiches when he's thirty?" Encourage independence by giving tweens more complex home projects once in a while.
The Good News: He Gets the Jokes
Your tween will love sharing a whole new level of wit, puns, wordplay and sarcasm.
This is a good time to expose kids to more grown-up movies and books, both current and classic. Of course, how far you want to go is a personal decision
Make it Even Better: Find a hobby you can pursue together.
Make It Even Better: Offer your house as a gathering spot for your tween and his friends, or be the mom who drives everyone to the mall. You get a very real sense of who they're friends with and what they're up to.
Make it Even Better: Let them know how proud you are of their kindness and generosity, and do everything in your power to help them act on it. Don't forget the power of your example.
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