Parents, can we agree to let our tweens be kids for a little while longer?

Being a tween doesn’t mean the kid years are over. It doesn’t mean that our kids suddenly have to be sophisticated and grown up. It does mean they are rapidly outgrowing childhood and exploring the next phase, but aren’t quite there yet.

As they mature, they may pass on animated movies for live action films. They may skip the saccharine sweet happy ending fairy tales for novels that are a little more real. They may ditch the dress up clothes to experiment with make-up. They may spend less time playing with siblings and more time chatting with friends.

Of course they may want to do those things sometimes.

But sometimes they still might want to play with their toys, build with LEGOs, watch cartoons, and snuggle with mom or dad on the couch. They may want to do these things but it will never happen if we don’t give them a safe space for it.

Think back to what you were doing when you were a tween. For my part, I was having sleepovers with girlfriends, talking about “crushes” on boys one minute, then playing with Cabbage Patch dolls the next. We were entering a new stage, but honestly, back then I feel like we had more time to dip our toes in and test the waters before jumping in. I don’t know if the culture has changed, or it’s the exposure to social media, or if it’s just me experiencing this new stage from a mom point of view (or a combination of all three) but it seems like our kids are forced into becoming teens earlier and earlier, even if they aren’t ready. And it made me think, are we part of the problem?

As parents are we giving our kids the opportunity to be both child and adolescent? To safely test the waters of the next stage, while still being a kid? Our children may not feel as comfortable as we did with our friends: practicing applying eye shadow all while talking about our favorite My Little Pony characters. With today’s more mature tweens our children might feel pressured to act as if they are “over” the things of their childhood even if they still long to play.

It’s up to us as parents to give them a safe space at home where our tweens can act like kids without fear of judgment.

So let’s hold onto the toys. Keep the Play-Doh, the LEGOs, the blocks, the stuffies, the dolls, the cars, and the Nerf guns. And don’t just store them away, make them easily accessible.

Let’s turn the screens off. Let the kids get bored enough to go find all the toys they secretly want to play with!

Let’s not judge them. Don’t make comments like, “Aren’t you a little too old for that?” when your kids choose a show that’s meant for younger kids or if they want to engage in an activity that seems young for them.

Let’s allow our tweens the freedom to be “just a kid” as long as they need to.

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Anne Metz

Anne Metz works part time as a freelance writer and spends the other part getting kids off the bus, breaking up fights, doing laundry, cooking, and cleaning up after her son and triplet daughters. For fun she enjoys whistling loudly and just slightly off key and eating meals that other people prepare for her. She is passionate about sharing her struggles with mothering to let other moms know they aren't alone in this journey. You can find more of her work on her blog: www.onceuponamom.net

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