The tween years, somewhere around ages 9-12, are a transition from young child to teenager. Tweens are seeking independence, focusing on their friendships, yet still need a great deal of parental guidance and discipline. Parents of a tween may be wondering how best to prepare them to navigate the real world. While we may wish we could shelter our children from the harsh truths out there, the reality is we can't forever.
What we can do is educate and prepare them to be safe, both in the real world and online. This preparation will help keep your child from situations that may be detrimental or unsafe. As parents, you will want to prepare them for possible situations to avoid being taken advantage of or being influenced in a way that doesn't align with your family values.
Teach Safety Tips
Your tween is likely beginning to spend more time with friends outside your home. Keep in mind not all homes have the same rules, so it's important for you to know who your child is spending time with. Prepare them for outings by teaching basic safety tips:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Stay with a friend or adult at all times
- Keep parents informed of plans and location
- Know what to do in an emergency or if they feel threatened
Reassure your child they can call you at any time, from anywhere, even if they fear repercussions. Be their first call and exit plan if they find themselves in a bad situation.
Teach Decision-Making Skills
Give your tween specific tools to use as they think through scenarios and decisions. Teach them to weigh out the pros and cons. Per All Pro Dad, you should also encourage them to have a healthy level of skepticism. Teach your tween it's a good idea to question things and how to do so in a non-argumentative way.
Practice Online Safety
Maintaining respect for privacy and keeping your tween safe online is a fine line for parents to walk. According to Safewise it's a good practice to keep computers, phones, and tablets in a central place in the home, so you can monitor activity. Safety threats for tweens online include:
- Cyber bullying
- Identity theft
- Online predators
Discuss all of these items with your child frequently and set rules for device use. Tips like never sharing personal information online, only talking to people you know in real life, and asking permission before downloading anything can help your child stay away from the above threats.
Prepare Them for Peer Pressure
According to Verywell Family, the tween years are the time to start talking about risky behaviors like smoking, vaping, sex, drugs, and alcohol. Communicating about these things will help your child make wise choices in social settings and feel comfortable coming to you with questions. Parents should set expectations in a way that tweens understand the reasoning behind the rule. Talk about the dangers of risky behaviors, and prepare them for what they can do if they get into an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
A tween will have outside influences from friends, teachers, coaches, media, and online. Parents are still the most important role models in a tween's life, so it's best you are the one instilling your family values. You can teach values, provide boundaries, and keep communication open to help prepare your tween for the real world.