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Parents of tweens… I feel your pain

Christine Spicer

I never knew I would be so quickly enraged with eye rolling, snarky muttering or someone who talks back.

If you have an 8-12-year-old in your house, chances are you understand – or you soon will. I’m not even in the delusional state that my daughter, who’s only just turned into double digits, is at her peak tween-ness. I read an article recently that many parents are calling the tween years harder than the baby years.

I’m forcing myself to tap into my emotional intelligence so I’m a supportive mother who is there for her child during this challenging time. It’s exhausting and I often fail. On occasion from out of nowhere, I hear a voice emanating from deep inside of me yelling ‘WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?’

I feel like the tween experience is all happening before its time, “she’s only just hit double digits” I’ve been known to sob as I sip on an inappropriate coping mechanism (wine), “I’m just not ready for it” sip “I’m scared that she’s going to start feeling uncomfortable in her body” sip “my little girl has gone” sip “I want to protect her forever” sip, sip, sip.

Because wine is never the answer (perhaps never is a bit of an overstatement) I’m learning how I can support my tween as we negotiate the coming years. My daughter is growing up and she’s on her own path to work out who she is and separate from her parents. I can lament that ‘kids these days are growing up too fast’ but it’s not going to change that it’s happening.

Set foundations

Setting foundations now will make the teenage years more bearable (I keep telling myself). I’m going to make sure the kids and I get ‘one on one’ time each day. During the week, it’s a challenge. By the time dinner, homework, and bedtime rolls around we are all exhausted. Spending 5-10 minutes at the end of the day just to chat can help build and keep up the connections that are vital to the ongoing support I can offer. This is a role for both parents, not just one.

Create reasonable limits

I’m learning that it’s a tween’s job to test limits, and I’m also learning to be OK with that. By creating standards expected and reasonable limits combined with empathy when they whine about them can help ensure calmer waters. Personally, I’m not a big one for power-based punishment, and although consequences play an important role in life using them as a form of punishment can lead to brilliant liars.

Having tweens learn that although your love for them is unconditional, there are behaviours that are not loved is a great motivator to make sure tweens negotiate the years with at least some self-esteem intact, and hopefully fewer grey hairs for the parents.

It’s not personal

I need to constantly remind myself that ‘it’s not personal’, not just for the new tween but for my older stepdaughters as well. I’m learning not to over-react, which is hard. I remind myself that I’m the adult (and ignore the whiny voice in my head ‘but I don’t want to be’). When our feelings are hurt it’s tempting to withdraw or lash out. Take a deep breath and stay calm. Strategic withdrawals with the chance to regroup might be required. My strategic withdrawals often involve wine – but I’ve no doubt that this isn’t a) good role modelling, b) advised by anyone with no children or c) best practice advice from anyone.


We are dealing with a different world to when we were tweens. Outside influences can now get into our homes easier than ‘back in the day’. One of the best ways to get our kids to act respectfully is to treat them with respect and to calmly expect it in return.

Communicate with other parents

It’s helpful if you have some sort of communication method with your child’s friend’s parents. We’re never going to be BFF with all of them, but being able to communicate easily will help. It will be invaluable in the future when you can check that your child is in fact where they said they would be.

This isn’t an extensive list, and it’s easier said than done.

I know what I should do but it doesn’t mean I always do it. Know that you are doing the best you can. We all parent in our own ways, advice on how to parent seems to start the second we are pregnant and will never stop. Take everyone’s words of wisdom and do with them what you like. Just remember, you’ve got this.

Next month PANDSI Cake Off – Canberra theme will be ramping up. Like the facebook page so you are the first to hear about the full concept and how you can take part. Let’s make #PANDSICakeOff an annual tradition, what’s better than supporting a local charity and cake?!


Christine Spicer

Christine Spicer is the President of PANDSI, mother of two and step-mum to more. Her volunteer role at PANDSI had led her to organising the PANDSI Cake-Off and working hard to reduce the stigma around perinatal depression and anxiety. She lives with her husband and kids in Weston Creek. More about the Author

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