Parenting tweens can be challenging, and its normal for both parents and kids to feel confusion about their roles and relationships as children begin to assert their independence. But with the right tools, parenting tweens can also be vastly rewarding, and can help ensure strong relationships both now and in the future.

Stay Connected

It’s important to stay connected with your child during these critical years. Children between the ages of 10 and 12 may be more interested in spending time with their friends than with their parents, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need quality time with you. Set aside time to work and play together, and show an interest in your child’s interests. While we're not advocating that you launch your tween into social media just yet, if you're already there, you might try using the technology your child uses to stay connected through texting and social media when you can’t be together physically.

Be Open

Children are often introduced to big topics like drugs and sex during their tween years. Don’t be afraid to bring up these topics in daily conversation so your child can see you’re okay talking about them. Most kids are uncomfortable with “the big talk,” but discussing these issues in small doses can break down barriers and make children more likely to be open with you about their questions. Kids will shut down if they see you react with shock or harsh judgment, so always try to be calm and reasonable in your reactions.

Involve Your Child in Setting Boundaries

Children in the tween years feel a need for greater autonomy—and that need will increase as they get older. Fighting their desire for independence will only backfire, but it’s still important for children to have limits and learn self-discipline. It can be helpful to involve your child in setting boundaries. This can help them to feel respected, and gives them a feeling of investment in the rules you decide on together.

This doesn’t mean mistakes will never happen though, so decide together on clear consequences for keeping and breaking rules, and stick to them.

Choose Your Battles

Your child will not always make the same choices you would, and it’s important to respect that. When a child breaks the rules, always follow up with the promised consequences, but when their choices are not necessarily wrong, simply not what you would prefer, it can be beneficial to allow that freedom. You may not want your tween daughter to wear knee-high, neon-colored socks to school, but it’s not going to make or break anything if she does. Allowing small freedoms like this can help a child feel greater independence without venturing into dangerous territory, and can go a long way to promoting a peaceful relationship between you.

Expect the Best

Parents sometimes dread the tween and teen years, but don’t let negative expectations get the better of you, and certainly don’t pass them on to your child. Although they may not admit it, tweens still need your love and approval, and frequently respond to positive expectations and interactions in kind. Always expect the best of your child; express love, pride, and confidence in them on a regular basis. You may be surprised by how well they respond!