You are bound to notice some interesting changes as your child makes the transition from tween to teen. Not only will your child make a mental shift as they begin to view themself as a teenager, but they also will experience a variety of physical and emotional changes.

During this time, they will develop their unique identity, gain independence, and navigate friend groups. The teenage years can be filled with uncertainty. But rest assured they can be some of the most rewarding years of parenting, if you know what to expect.

As tweens and teens deal with the emotional and physical changes that accompany puberty, it’s normal for them to feel uncertain, moody, sensitive, and self-conscious at times. “You can expect some mood changes,” is probably an understatement. Showing empathy and grace will go a long way as you weather the storm. It may be difficult at times, but try not to take it personally and learn to pick and choose your battles.

Gaining Independence

Remember, your young child is on the road to becoming an independent person who wants to make their own decisions about their body, their activities, and their friends.

It might be helpful to share these thoughts with your child: “Everyone around you will be trying to figure out who they are. You’re not a little kid anymore, but far from an adult. You have more independence in middle and/or high school and sometimes that may get tricky. You’ll be faced with situations that are new and you might not know what to do.” Let them know you are there to help guide them through these challenges and explore potential solutions together. You could even try role playing difficult scenarios, so they become more confident about what to do and say.

Not surprisingly, tweens and teens friend groups often change as their identities shift, so getting to know your child’s friends becomes even more important. This can also be a time of great uncertainly if your child’s usual friend group has shifted and they feel left out. Encourage them to try new sports, hobbies, or after-school activities to expand their social circles and meet others with similar interests and values.

Normal Phases of Adolescence

As tweens and teens start to form their own identity, it’s normal for them to want to spend more time with their friends than with family members. During this time, it also becomes more important than ever to fit in with peers. Their friends may now become the most important people in their life.

While it can be hard to have your child spend less time with you, having fun with their peers can be an important social outlet and is an integral part of their development. It can also be instrumental in helping them manage stress.

As your child becomes more independent, they also may begin to rely more on friendships, often confiding in their peers instead of you. For this reason, it’s wise to have regular communication with your child, not only to find out what’s going on in their life and what they think about different things, but also to touch base on important topics like vaping, healthy relationships and consent, bullying, and healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety. These conversations are especially important to help them resist negative peer pressure, which can become a factor as teens want to fit in and belong.

Also, it’s best they learn about these topics from a trusted source, such as a parent, rather than what they may see on social media or from pop culture icons. This could be as easy as having a conversation starter jar of questions at the dinner table where everyone is welcome to place an anonymous question in the jar.

Opportunities for Learning

When your teen makes poor choices or decisions that do not make sense, try to remain calm. Look at these situations as opportunities to help them learn from their mistakes. It is common for teens to believe that bad things will not happen to them as their adolescent brain is not yet fully able to understand or predict consequences for their behavior. This makes them more likely to challenge family or school rules. They know what is right and wrong but may still push the limits as they are moving toward adulthood.

Hopefully, having a better understanding of what your child is going through and knowing that these changes are a part of normal adolescence will help you navigate the changes ahead.