Navigating the Tween Years Expert Tips for Successful Parenting

Tween Parenting Navigating the Journey with Style and Grace

preteen girl boat

Oh, parenting books, how they have taken over my life! They’re scattered all over our apartment, in every nook and cranny. They’re piled up next to my bed, strewn across the sofa, even tucked away in the bathroom. I send my husband photos of important paragraphs, accompanied by urgent texts like, “We need to start doing this!” or “READ THIS NOW!!!!” I’m obsessed, I tell you. I want to absorb every piece of advice these books offer. I want them coursing through my veins.

Now, let me confess something. I never thought I’d be so drawn to the world of parenting books. In the past, I arrogantly believed that my husband and I were the ultimate experts when it came to raising our unique child. Plus, the information in those books often seemed laughably contradictory. I mean, there was that viral rant about sleep training that made me feel like parenting advice was just a sick joke designed to make us all feel like failures. But now, with a tween daughter in tow, I find myself desperately searching for answers. How do I teach her time management and schoolwork? Should I correct all her homework or let her learn from her mistakes (like the misspelling of “misspelled” that she hilariously made on her own)? How do I push her without pushing her into total burnout? How do I let her fail? How do I guide her to respect her body? How do I pry her away from the internet’s clutches and teach her digital safety?

Clearly, I’m drowning in a sea of a million questions.

You see, when our daughter was younger, the decisions we had to make were relatively simple. When should she eat solid foods? What do we pack for a long flight? We just went with our gut instincts, and it seemed to work out fine. But now, the stakes are higher, and my dad’s old saying rings true: little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems. I know, I know, she’s not even that big yet, but trust me, ten-year-old problems are a whole new level of challenging. And let’s not even get started on what awaits us when she hits her rebellious teenage years. Brace yourselves, folks, because it’s only just begun, and it’s beginning with a bang.

It feels eerily reminiscent of the time when I sent my toddler daughter off to daycare in Vienna, where we lived for a few years. It was our first taste of separation, and the fact that she was immersed in the world of learning and speaking German (a language I could barely comprehend) made the change all the more stark. She was in a whole new universe, one that belonged solely to her. For two years, I could only wave at her from the doorway, our communication limited by both geography and language.

And now, in this strange and unsettling tween phase, I’m reminded of those years in Vienna. No matter how hard I try, there’s something about this phase that feels like an unsolvable enigma. There’s a part of her that’s becoming inaccessible to me, creating a boundary between us, just like it did with my own mother. It’s a necessary boundary, a sign of her growing independence, but still, it pushes me out, bit by bit.

Maybe my desperate need for parenting books stems from my heightened awareness of time. I feel it slipping through my fingers more acutely now that she’s ten. The time we have together at home is still significant, but I can already see it slipping away as she spends more and more of it with friends, at school, or engaged in various activities. And there’s that closed bedroom door, acting like a barrier between us.

So, where I once relied solely on my intuition and the boundless love I have for my daughter (because, hey, love conquers all, right?), I now find myself reaching out to my girlfriends who have already navigated the treacherous waters of raising teenagers:

“Is it normal for her to come home from school and vanish into her room for hours?” I ask with concern.

“Yes, kids deserve privacy too,” they lovingly assure me.

“What about correcting all her homework?” I ponder.

“No way!” they exclaim.

When things take a turn for the worse, when doors are being slammed and tempers are flaring, I take deep breaths and fight the urge to join in the madness. I lock eyes with my husband, silently communicating, “Stay calm.” I tune into podcasts about puberty, gathering nuggets of wisdom as if they were precious gems. And, of course, I devour books by the likes of Lisa Damour, Jennifer Breheny Wallace, and Devorah Heitner, treating their words as gospel.

But every now and then, amidst the chaos, there are those moments of calm, when motherhood feels like smooth sailing once again. I remember that I do know what I’m doing with this kid who holds my heart captive. After a recent meltdown, I invited her to snuggle up in our cozy clothes, grab some popcorn, and watch a cooking show together. She let me cradle her in my arms, just like I did when she was little. Nothing got miraculously resolved, the school drama remained exactly where we left it, but she found comfort in my embrace. Together, we weathered the storm, as we always have.

These moments of tranquility act as anchors during the tempestuous times. They serve as reminders that I’m not always flailing and that it’s normal for her to get angry, retreat to her room, and assert her independence. I must let her chart her own course, and together, we can navigate the rough seas.

Parenting a preteen is like switching from driving an automatic car to a manual one. Suddenly, I find myself juggling the clutch and gearshift, using both legs to manage the pedals, while also paying close attention to the road and listening for even the tiniest engine sound. I change gears, praying I won’t stall or grind them to a halt. It’s challenging, no doubt, but I have to keep driving. I have to trust in my ability to navigate this new terrain.

Oh, and before I forget, let’s not underestimate the power of my fellow moms with teenagers. They are the real MVPs, offering wisdom, guidance, and endless support. So, if you’re currently experiencing the wrath of the tween tornado or are about to embark on this tumultuous journey yourself, know that you’re not alone. Seek solace in the company of fellow moms who have been there, done that, and survived. Together, we can conquer this thrilling rollercoaster ride called parenting.

P.S. Want more intriguing insights into parenting teenagers? Check out these fabulous reads: 21 completely subjective rules for raising teenage boys and 21 completely subjective rules for raising teenage girls.

(Photo by Irina Ozhigova/Stocksy)