How to spot a tween: 10 signs to look for

It's like someone flicks a switch and overnight your darling child seems to be acting like a teenager. If you're feeling that way as a parent, there's a good chance you now have a tween.

There's some debate about this concept of the "tween". Most experts say it's an age group made up by marketers to sell more stuff. There's some truth in it, but there's also some big changes as a child moves from being a child to a teenager. And these are worth keeing an eye on.

A tween is a child aged between 8 and 12. Those last years before they can call themselves a teenager. There are things that they do, think and say that will fit with our idea of a teenager. But there are also things that are still delightfully child like. That's where the term came from... being in-be"tween".

10 signs you have a tween in the house

The tween years fit around those last years of primary school and first ones of high school. So much change is happening in their lives, both within their bodies and outside them. No wonder they get so resistant to other changes!

If you're wondering if you've hit the tween zone, here's ten signs to look:

  1. They lose interest in favourite toys. In fact any toys can be unappealing to a tween. Things that were precious for years and they spent every minute playing with live in the corner, ignored.
  2. They no longer think you know everything. This is something that happens overnight. It's where plenty of parents who have kept secrets or told lies to make life seem more magical get caught out. Don't take it as a sign that they don't like you, just accept it as a change in your relationship.
  3. They no longer tell you everything either. Yes, suddenly they hide behind the bedroom door. They shut down the computer screen or answer every question with a shrug or "don't know." This can feel like a kick in the guts. But it's more important to stick to some good boundaries about what they do behind your back. Find tricky ways to drag out some information about how life is going for them too.
  4. They start developing their own taste. No longer will they blindly follow your taste in music, clothes or books. The tween and teen years are all about developing your own identity. For most tweens this starts with throwing out anything that their parents think is cool.
  5. The tantrums return. It's like parenting a toddler again, only now they have more words. Some of those words aren't always nice. People who live with a tween will have that sensation of walking on eggshells. Hoping each morning they wake up with a cheerful spirit. Don't worry, it does pass!
  6. They model the exaggerated teenagers they see on television. Hair flicking, foot stomping and eye rolling all appear in the tween years. It's like a code that you're not aware of. If you talk too much or don't talk enough, you push them over the edge.
  7. They care more about their appearance. A quick trip to the shops no longer starts with a rattle of the keys and grabbing a pair of shoes. There's the hair to fix up, the five outfits to try on and discard and if you're really unlucky the makeup to apply. Be patient, you never know who they might run into. Oh the embarrassment!
  8. They start dabbling in social media. At some point all their friends will be on one platform that they just have to be part of. This can be a slippery slope, so put some firm limits in place, especially when you hand over that first phone.
  9. They grow. The tween years see a lot of physical changes taking place. It can be difficult for kids to love their bodies as they go through this awkward stage and all sorts of odd things take place.
  10. They start doing things you had no idea they knew about. Like make up, or pulling their bike apart and rebuilding it. YouTube can teach kids lots of things that in the past they would have asked their parents for help with. This is where you start having to show interest in what they know and can teach you, rather than clamping down on their adventurous attempts to be different.

While some of these signs can make life feel unsettled, they're more a reminder that it's time to adjust your parenting. Get ready to move towards having a relationship with a teenager, not a child.

Republished with permission from Rachel Doherty.

Rachel Doherty

Rachel Doherty is the founder of Tweens2teen. She’s a social worker, teacher and the mother of 3 teenagers. In her spare time she trains youth workers and does a lot of washing and cooking. You can read more of her work on her website –

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