Preteens are children between the ages of 9 and 12 years. This is a transition period between a child that loves toys to one who wants to be a cool teenager.
The preteen years is the period that the child starts to find his/ her identity, seeking independence, becoming more inquisitive, asking more questions.
Children within this age gap are willing to explore and try out new things based on the fact that they are seeking independence. There is an increase in their level of creativity and their quest to learn new things.
Puberty starts during this crucial stage, the onset of puberty is also characterized by some physical, emotional and social changes.
At this early stage of puberty, the child starts experiencing changes in his/her physical structures like the body shape, height, menstrual cycle begins, development of breast buds and contouring of the hips for girls. Growth in the size of the penis. Hairs start growing in the genital areas, armpits and on the face and chest for boys. Their voices start to deepen and they might have some embarrassing erection moments in awkward places.
Due to the onset of puberty, the preteens tend to experience some emotional changes like mood swings (hormones), strong emotional response to the ups and downs of hormones. The child becomes more self-conscious because of the changes occurring in the body. The feeling of inferiority or lacking some level of self-confidence.
The child might be affected by the perception of others, also trying to understand the emotions and feelings in others.
This stage is the self-identity seeking stage, the child starts seeking independence. Wanting to belong to a social group or cliché. Friends approval and acceptance become more important than that of the family.
You start to notice the influence of peer and popular culture (fashion, music, art, TV programs, teens & sports celebrity, internet usage and even social media ) on the child. Start comparing themselves to others
Their sense of security no longer comes from the family but from their friend’s acceptance. They tend to confide more in their friends than their parents especially if there is no connecting bond existing between parent and child.
The best way to raise a well-balanced preteen and to be relevant in his life is by maintaining a healthy connection and have a balance between Loving unconditionally and disciplining appropriately.
They still need your love, care, nurture, guidance and support although from a distance (because they start demanding for their privacy and personal space).
They tend to test limits and push boundaries as a sign of gaining independence, therefore, you need to establish a firm routine and set clear rules (if you do not have one ) and be consistent with your consequences.
Have an open channel of communication so they can be free to talk with you when they want to talk. Please avoid being judgmental. Activate your listening skills, ask open-ended questions to clarify issues and to know more. Look for teachable moments to teach values. Your words and actions shape his sense of right and wrong.
They start to think abstractly and might seem argumentative, they are not being rude but seeing things in a different way compared to before.
This is the period most children get their first mobile phone, iPod or tabs. Kindly activate parental control because the internet is not safe. All sorts tend to pop up especially pornography when they are online.
You need to stay emotionally connected with your child, you can do this by maintaining a family tradition or routine, for example, you having an individual date with the child where his/her guards are down and you get to know more about his/ her life. Family meal time is another way to stay connected, I remember when I visited my sister and I noticed that every evening her family have a meal together, during this period everyone talks about their day giving highlights and challenges.
Please note that at this stage parenting is not effective by controlling your child but by having a strong, mutual respecting relationship with him.
Oluwatoyin Ogunkanmi is a Psychologist and Family Life Practitioner. She is the founder of Parenting support system Ltd, an organization whose goal is to make your parenting journey peaceful and stress-free by providing you with relevant information and tools.
You can follow her on Instagram @oluwatoyinogunkanmi or visit her website www.oluwatoyinogunkanmi.com for more information.