3 Bumps in the Road for Tweens – and How We Can Help Them
According to authors Charlene Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese, The Roller-Coaster Years, our tweens are facing a three-ring cirucs of sensory overload that leads to:
Don’t dismiss the distraction as only an “age thing” that they will outgrow. Giannetti and Sagarese point to roadblocks that might interfere with a tween's academic progress.
- Language difficulties – Subtle differences between understanding oral and written directions
- Spatial orientation – Challenges with writing, reading, and spelling
- Memory – Retrieval skills are not natural, and kids who struggle with memory issues are more likely to struggle in school
- Fine motor control – Handwriting and artwork
- Sequencing – Tweens who struggle with sequencing and adequately estimating time concepts are prone to distracted behaviors
Tweens and young teenagers have more on their plates than ever, and you might notice signs of disorganization.
- Consistently forgetting things
- Consistently losing things
- Underestimating the time needed to complete a task
- Seemingly unaware of time concepts in relations to deadlines and expectations
- Give them a comfortable, quiet, and distraction free zone for homework.
- Help them learn to make lists. Teach your child to make a list the night before for things that need to be accomplished the next day.
- Teach them to use visual clues. In our home notes for Mom go on the dry erase board, notes for errands on the colorful magnetic pad on the fridge, etc.
- Slow them down with questions. What did you remember to pack in your backpack? What is your plan for after school today? (Avoid questions that can be answered with yes/no because they don’t have to stop and think about their answers.)
- Use timers. This is a huge help in my home where I have one child who seems to be rewriting the concept of time. Instead of a kitchen timer that loudly seems to click “I’m counting and you’re running out of time!”, I invested in one of these funky timers that are visually interesting, but not intimidating.
- Teach your child to prioritize. Academics are obvious areas that benefit from prioritizing, but don’t forget about how this skill relates to chores at home and even time spent on leisure activities.
- Build in buffer zones. If you know that by Thursday there will be a missing homework assignment and daily chores haven’t been done since Monday, set aside specific time each week at regular intervals, before the disorganization hits overload. Check in with your kids, have a family meeting, and even just have your child clean out her backpack.
The tween years can be the time in a child’s life when you see him appear to lose interest in things he once loved. This can very well be true – his tastes, abilities, and interests are going to change. But how do you know if the disinterest is age related and not lack of enthusiasm for life related?
- Trust your instincts. If you think that your tween is too withdrawn from family or friends, perhaps spending way too much time online, don’t turn a deaf ear to what your instincts are telling you.
- Give your tweens opportunities to spark new interests. Tweens and young teenagers might be reluctant to try new things because they are going through periods of insecurity, but offering and encouraging new opportunities is important to keep your child enthused about life.
- Find new role models. The tween years are also a time when you might notice your tween pulling back from you as she seeks her independence. That is OK – and normal. Just help her find great role models she can turn to when she feels the need for space from you.
- Have your tween teach something new to you. Interest sometimes fades when we don’t think we have anything else to offer. Remind your tween of how much he has to give to his community, friends, and family by encouraging him to take on the role of teacher.
- Portions originally appearing in BetterParenting