Would you choose to be 12 years old again? Having watched all three of our kids dance through this stage, it's not without its tricky moments. Lately, I have been thinking about things a 12 year old should know in their last year before entering their teenage years.
There are some special times of being 12. The move to high school fits around this year, with the farewell to old friends and a hello to new ones. It's also a time when kids are starting to craft their own identity.
Twelve years old
A child's 12th birthday is the halfway point in their journey to being an adult. Most of their childhood is behind them and they're on the brink of being a teenager.
For many kids the physical changes of adolescence are well underway too. They're getting taller and their appearance is changing. Their relationships are getting deeper, both at home and school.
Some parents find it hard to let go of their "baby" and accept that their child is growing up. Others welcome the new independence and take any friction or attitudes as part of the ride.
12 things a 12 year old should know
Here are 12 fundamentals that parents should focus on growing in the last months of childhood:
1. Mistakes are learning experiences.
In our quest to make the world safer, we've taken away lots of things that let them take risks. Like monkey bars and rickety ladders and those roundabout things in the park. Those things taught us all what happens if you take a risk too far, or you don't judge it right. Our kids have to learn that in other ways. We need to accept that they're going to make mistakes, and even welcome it.
2. The captain's always responsible for his own ship.
The grounding of the Costa Concordia off Italy in 2012 taught us that the captain is always in charge of a ship. And that you should never hand over control to the first mate. It's the same for our kids. They need to remember that while their friends might influence them, they're always responsible for their own actions. Teach your kids to think through consequences regardless of how good an idea sounds at the time.
3. Money is easy to spend but harder to make.
Most kids won't get their first job until they're teenagers, but the ability to spend money starts well before then. Unless you want kids to be spending your money for years to come, give them opportunities to work for money. Pay them an allowance that will teach them the art of saving and spending wisely.
4. Life should be a good balance of work, rest and play.
As young people move through high school, the pressure to work harder is tough to fight. There will also be kids who spend more hours than they should playing, at the expense of their sleep and studies. Balance is important. Model it and talk about it with your kids.
5. The clowns are rarely the main entertainment, they're the support act.
As a teacher, I've found that there's always at least one clown in every class. They're good for a joke, but being the clown means kids can develop a reputation or be ignored when they've got something worth saying.
6. Choose friends wisely.
The friends kids have in their early years tend to be based on proximity. Others in their class, neighbours or family friends. But as young people move into high school they choose friends based more on common interests, character traits and even status. This is when our kids need to learn what qualities to look out for in friends. And what sort of friendships stand the test of time.
7. Be the best version of yourself most of the time.
Nobody's perfect all the time, but kids can focus on their good qualities more than their weaknesses.
8. Happiness is a choice, not a result.
The media tells us if we just buy this product, go to this place or do these things, we're going to be happy. How far is that from real life? The tween years are the perfect time to nip consumerism in the bud. Help kids to understand that if you let external things determine you joy, you'll never be truly happy.
9. You can't stand out from the crowd if you're too busy following it.
We live in the age of the individual, yet we constantly seek to fit in with others. Somehow we need to help our kids work out their uniqueness without feeling like too much of an outsider.
10. Most people who experience success get it through hard work, not luck.
Another myth our kids pick up is that people who experience success are born with it or have good luck. Sure there's often a bit of luck that comes into play, but most successful people have positioned themselves to be in the right place at the right time. Life is only lucky for a handful of lotto winners. The rest of us are going to have to craft our own success by having a plan and working towards each day.
11. Being polite never goes out of style.
Learning to talk to adults, behave at the dining table and conduct themselves in public when their parents around are the basics of good style.
12. Life is full of things we don't like but the trick is to hide them among the things we do.
Peas are a big issue in our house, but now at least most of our family will get on with eating them. There are plenty of other things that can be "peas" in life. Homework, chores, family events or even shopping trips. Kids need to learn to "suck it up" and get on with life.
Every birthday is a milestone, but turning 12 is definitely a turning point between childhood and the teenage years. Having these fundamentals in place for your child before they hit their teens should help them navigate the rough patches and not find themselves on the rocks.