By Kristen Daukas, author of

I had to get a Halloween reference in the title somehow because believe me, this journey into the Tweens and Teens is a little frightening to say the least.

If you’re like me, with every passing milestone you breathed a sigh of relief and expressed undying gratitude that it was over. You survived the terrible twos and even the (worse) terrible threes. You did okay when your baby went to Kindergarten once you realized that they weren’t going to be eaten by some mysterious creature that lived under the playground.

But now, you’re facing the Tweens and Teens.

You remember the saying “when you have a child, it is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around your body”? I think this is where it’s really true except it’s more like my heart is being stomped. The worst day for me was when I realized that with the onset of the tweens, our actual living “time” with our kids was well over halfway done. It can be heartbreaking to say the least.

This is the age where your child will start to value their friend’s opinion over yours. They’ll spend whatever free time they have with their friends and not you. You will become seemingly uncool and clueless overnight and nothing you say or do is ever right. You can fight it all you want but it’s a fact of life and I imagine if you think back on it, they’re not acting any differently than you and I did when we were that age.

Okay.. Enough sniffling, it’s time to buck up. So, how does everyone survive? As the mom of 3 girls who break down into 2 Tweens and 1 Teen, my best advice is with skin thick as steel, a healthy sense of humor and a six-pack of beer. Your child will say and do the most whacked out things and at some point, you’re going to find yourself stooping to their level. You’ll react with punishments and groundings as off the wall as the crime that was committed.

“Not me” you say? Hah. Good luck with that. What can you expect? I’m glad you asked.

The kid that loved school and had great grades? Don’t be surprised if they tank the first quarter of middle school. Gone are the days of the warm and fuzzy elementary school environment. This is where they are pushed to learn accountability and having ownership over their assignments. It was a hard thing to watch that first “lower than C” grade come home, but we knew that we had to let her see first hand that this was a new game. Good news is that it was the only time it happened but, disappointing still.

Their friends start shifting at this age, too. The amount of kids in Middle school is almost 5 times more than elementary school. They most likely will have very few of the same kids in their class as they had before. Which means that not only are they meeting new people, but you are as well because new kids mean new parents. The social life kicks into over-drive and you have to keep an even closer eye on it. I used to enjoy the parties where I could drop the girls off and come back in 2 hours. Now I really wish I could stay and hang out to keep an every watchful eye on the budding interest in the opposite sex. Sounds obvious but know the parents and if there’s a party, make sure that THEY, the parents, are aware of it.

The vast majority of their interaction and conversations happen without a word ever being spoken. They communicate almost entirely by text or Facebook. Email doesn’t exist in their world. The rule in our house is if you have a phone and text, it is subject to random inspection and believe me – we enforce that. I’ve seen a few things that I didn’t like and there were consequences. But you have to take advantage of the fact that they do still look to you for guidance and use it to educate them. If you aren’t already familiar with the sites they use (such as Facebook and Twitter), I would strongly recommend that you get on these sites and familiarize yourself like, yesterday.

Attitude… ah yes, attitude. This is a tough one in our house. I remember being a 13-year-old girl and all the crazy stuff going on in my head and my body. My husband on the other hand, can’t relate as well. He sees the dramatic sighs and eye rolls as nothing short of disrespectful and while he is right in a sense, it really is nothing more than her attempt at creating her own identity and points of views. Decide early on what you’ll let roll off your back and what you won’t allow. For me the big one is to not be cruel or intentionally hurt someone’s feelings. There will be unpopular decisions made. I was recently informed that I was SO overprotective and not fair because I wouldn’t allow DD to sleep over at an outdoor party. Uhm yeah… guilty as charged.. sorry if I’m not ready for Co-Ed sleepovers.

We can all agree that this is a trying time for all, but it’s also very rewarding just like every other phase. When they want to spend time with you, it is a great opportunity to reconnect with them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get a better idea of what they’re thinking and who they’re thinking about. Work “hot topics” into the conversation when the chance presents itself. Now more than ever they really need to know that you are there for them and that they can still come to you for advice.

If you’re already in the Tween and Teen stage, what has been the most challenging thing for you to face and how did you handle it? And if you aren’t quite there yet, what scares you most about this stage?