The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - Family Life -

OU’VE SUR­VIVED the ter­ri­ble twos, seen your child through pri­mary school and are look­ing for­ward to a peace­ful cou­ple of years be­fore they turn into Kevin, the teenager with the moody mantra: “It’s so un­fair!” But mod­ern life is see­ing our kids grow up faster, spawn­ing the new syn­drome that north Lon­don par­ent­ing coach Bebe Jacobs calls the “ter­ri­ble tweens”.

A tween may barely have achieved dou­ble dig­its, but is al­ready go­ing on 15, in Jacobs’s opin­ion. “Ask any par­ent how com­pli­cated it is to have a 10- or 11-year-old. Th­ese kids are hov­er­ing be­tween child­hood and teens and sway from be­ing close to their fam­ily to des­per­ately want­ing to con­nect with their friends,” she ex­plains. The com­pli­ca­tions in­crease to­wards pu­berty: “Boys have left be­hind toys and games and now mainly con­nect through sport or tech­nol­ogy. Girls, on the other hand, have of­ten started notic­ing boys and talk­ing about them. They are also of­ten mean to each other about what their friends are wear­ing and how they look.”

And it is the longed-for ap­proval of those friends that causes prob­lems. “Many of th­ese chil­dren are still very con­nected to their fam­i­lies, but the bol­shi­ness starts when they feel the pull of in­flu­ence of their peers,” says Jacobs, a mother of three. “They are be­com­ing aware of life out­side home and that it won’t be long now be­fore they can ex­plore it with­out par­ents, so some are al­ready push­ing the bound­aries to do so. Es­pe­cially in this coun­try,

SUM­MER 2013 where chil­dren of­ten travel alone for the first time to sec­ondary school. If you can go on a train from home to school at 11, you rea­son that you can go to other places, too.”

What kind of dif­fi­cult be­hav­iour can par­ents ex­pect? “Typ­i­cally mood­i­ness, as hor­mones kick in. One minute they be­have like a child; the next they want to be treated like an adult. They be­come more se­cre­tive and want their own space.”

It is the mothers who are likely to find them­selves declar­ing “It’s so un­fair”, when all the TLC they have heaped upon their child comes back to bite them in tweenage. “If the child is not very self-re­liant and the par­ents have done a lot for them, they seem to take ad­van­tage of it at this stage,’” says Jacobs. “It’s as if they have lost re­spect for the par­ent, whom they have started to view as their ser­vant.”

Bebe, who has writ­ten a par­ent­ing book and holds on­line sem­i­nars, has strate­gies for cop­ing with tweens. “Re­mind your­self what you do like about your child, oth­er­wise you may find your­self fo­cus­ing only on what you don’t like. Stop ask­ing about school; they don’t want you to know! But keep com­mu­ni­ca­tion as friendly as pos­si­ble and be in­ter­ested in at least some of the things they are in­ter­ested in, so you have things to talk about when they do want to talk. Don’t try to come to the res­cue and fix things, es­pe­cially for girls, who will com­plain about friend­ships but don’t want par­ents to in­ter­fere.” And most im­por­tantly, “keep spend­ing qual­ity time with them, as soon they will be teenagers and will want to spend even less time with you”.

Do not let parental bound­aries slip: “Be­ing a tween can be scary and they need some se­cu­rity that it’s OK to say no. If you con­front them with is­sues, do it as calmly as pos­si­ble and don’t be shocked. Use ar­ti­cles and TV pro­grammes to trig­ger dis­cus­sions.”

Also, says Bebe, recog­nise your child for the tween he or she has be­come: “Be pre­pared for their con­fu­sion and the swing from child­hood to teenage be­hav­iour, but don’t try to make your child fit into one cat­e­gory or the other. At this stage they still need to be both, as they are not yet ready to leave child­hood and be­come adults.”

It is a worry for Jewish par­ents that the tweens co­in­cide with the run-up to bar- and bat­mitz­vahs. Jacobs ac­knowl­edges: “They may be moody and find it dif­fi­cult to fo­cus; they al­ready have a lot on their plate with aca­demic work.” But she is re­as­sur­ing about the ma­te­ri­al­ism that seems to be the driv­ing force for learn­ing that por­tion. “It may seem as if they only want the presents, but un­derneath they re­ally are af­fected by the spir­i­tu­al­ity of the oc­ca­sion and will ex­pe­ri­ence a great sense of achieve­ment. At a time when they may have doubts about how pop­u­lar they are, it’s good for their self-es­teem to be the cen­tre of at­ten­tion for a week­end.” Bebe Jacobs of­fers ad­vice to par­ents of all age groups on her web­site www. par­ent­ing­coach­ing­now.com

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