8 tips to communicate with a pre-teen

Have an angsty pre-teen? No problem! Get pointers on how to better connect with your temperamental tween.


Yikes! Your baby is now a tween — she’s between 5 and 12, entering school and changing so fast. Although each child matures at a different age, some tweens will already show signs of puberty. This means hormones are taking over, which can result in physical changes and unpredictable behaviour.

          Dr Adrian Wang, a consultant psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, explains that mentally, tweens are starting to establish their own identity. “They want to exert their independence and are developing their own tastes in music, what they watch, who they are friends with, and what they want to buy.”

          It is a confusing time for tweens: Their bodies are developing, their views of the world are becoming more realistic, there is peer pressure, along with the first flutterings of attraction to the opposite sex. So it is vital that you grow along with your child.

          Dr Wang advises, “It is important to build a strong foundation when they are young because the teenage years could be worse! Reach out to them early, keep an open dialogue with your tween, so that you build trust and foster openness.”

Stay in touch Simple things like having meals together and spending time alone with each child can make a big difference. Don’t expect your child to invite closeness or volunteer vulnerable emotions when you insist. But it can happen if you set up enough regular opportunities to be together.

Be interested This is a time when tweens begin to develop their interests, so be supportive. Use this period to nurture him, so that he can achieve his full potential.

Encourage independence Dr Wang advises, “Give them some space. Let them choose what they want to wear, let them make some personal choices, but it is important to set some limits.”

Explain the value of money Because of peer pressure and advertising, they will start demanding games and branded goods. Explain how they can allocate money and show them how to save, suggests Dr Wang.

Teach your values The tween years are the perfect time to teach values. If you haven’t done the birds-and-bees talk, it’s time to tackle it! Don’t be afraid to talk about issues like drugs, sex and pornography.

Remember family dynamics “Avoid conflict with your spouse, as that is a sure recipe for a moody child,” Dr Wang warns. Treat family members with respect and you will get it in return.

Involve him in decisions He’ll appreciate that sense of family belonging, even as it builds his self-esteem. Tweens need to feel that they have a secure nest as they launch themselves into the exciting but scary world. Kids who feel disconnected from their parents lose their anchor and will look elsewhere for it.

Engage junior Dr Wang notes that parents will see an increase in defiance, so they should re-think their notions about discipline. A parent never wins a power struggle with his child because power-based punishment strategies stop working when junior starts challenging them. He says, “Parents should watch their emotions and give each other a bit of space. Instead of lecturing, use conversation. Engage them in discussion.”

Read on for answers to several pressing pre-teen questions…

Photo: INGimage