What are the tween years?

The tween years are the ages between 8 and 12 years old. They are sometimes called middle childhood. Kids in this age group aren't teenagers yet, but they also aren't little kids anymore. 

The tween years come with a lot of changes. It’s a time when children are gaining maturity and getting more independent from their parents. They start to value their social groups more, and they want to spend more time with their friends. 

For some kids, puberty begins during this time, and they have to adjust to their changing bodies. Kids may find that schoolwork increases and becomes more complicated. Kids are ready to take on more responsibility at this age. They may also face new emotional challenges as school, friendships, and their bodies continue to change. 

Physical changes for tweens

During the tween years, most kids are still growing at a rapid rate. They will continue to get taller and stronger during this time. As they approach puberty, you will notice other physical changes as well:

  • Sudden growth spurts
  • Body hair
  • New body odor
  • Secondary sex characteristics such as breast development, genital growth, and menstruation
  • Skin changes, such as acne or oily scalp and hair

Children also finish losing their baby teeth during this phase. Some kids need orthodontic braces to fix bite problems and straighten teeth. Dental care remains important now that kids have adult teeth that will last a lifetime.

What Parents Can Do

Parents can help tweens navigate these changes by talking honestly about how bodies develop. Kids may be reassured to know that what they are experiencing is normal. They may also need to hear that not everyone develops at the same time, so some kids will experience puberty sooner or later than their peers.


 

Emotional changes for tweens

Puberty brings strong feelings, and you may find that your tween is more emotional than they were when they were younger. Mood swings and strong reactions are not uncommon. They might display new signs of anxiety or self-doubt about friendships or schoolwork.

Some kids have difficulty adjusting to the change from elementary school to middle school. The workload and complicated class schedule are sometimes overwhelming. You may notice that they need more encouragement to put their best effort into their schoolwork. 

Tweens start looking for more independence from their families. They may want opportunities to prove that they aren’t little kids anymore. They might ask for more privacy or more freedom to do activities without as much supervision. 

What Parents Can Do

Parents can foster independence by offering tweens the chance to take on more responsibility at home. Encourage your tween to follow their interests and let them join clubs and teams that they can attend without parents. Set reasonable boundaries for behavior and be consistent with them. Tweens may want to push your limits, but experts say that staying consistent about rules and expectations helps kids learn to manage their behavior. 


 

Tween social lives

Tweens often become very social and form tight-knit groups of friends. These friendships are richer and more complex than the friendships they had in early childhood. Kids may want to spend more and more time with their friends instead of with their families.

Supportive friendships are healthy for tweens. Parents should be aware that there is a chance that tweens will encounter growing peer pressure. Kids may worry about fitting in and start to take unwise risks to get approval from their friends or classmates. 

What Parents Can Do

To help tweens navigate relationships, parents should talk to them about their friends and social activities. Ask questions about their feelings and encourage them to make good choices despite peer pressure. If possible, get to know the families of their friends and keep in touch with teachers and coaches. Attend any events at school or for their extracurriculars so you can see how your child is interacting with other tweens.

In summary

Your tween is growing up, but they aren’t grown up yet. No matter how big they get or how mature they look, children between the ages of 8 and 12 are still children. They need boundaries, support, and supervision. 

Parents can help tweens along their path by listening and being present for them. Adults can find ways to foster their growing independence during these years. At the same time, adults should let tweens know that there is always someone to help when they need it. 

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Medically Reviewed on 10/12/2021
References
SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Middle Childhood (9-11 years of age)."

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: "Adolescent Oral Health Care"

N?ational Health Service: "Stages of puberty: what happens to boys and girls."