Insta-Parent to a Tween. What to expect at this age? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 08-01-2012, 01:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Joined hoping I can get some good advice and perspective on an unusual situation I've gotten into.

 

Background here, but necessary, I think, to explain the issue fully. Skip over if you want to. I was a full-time nanny for a little girl, raised her really, for 7 years, from the time she was 12 months on. It broke both of our hearts when her father had to move her and I couldn't go, like losing one of my own children for me and like losing a mother for her. We do keep in contact and she visits one weekend a month and stays with me for a week here and there in the summers. But it's not the same as being with her all the time. She's 11 now.

 

Long story short, her father has to move overseas for employment, minimum 4 year commitment, and she didn't want to be uprooted (and with his high-travel job there, she wouldn't have been able to have a normal life anyway), and we came to an arrangement that she could live with me. I am happy to have her again and she is thrilled. But having missed so much of her everyday life these last 3 years, I can't help but feel nervous about for all intents and purposes becoming an insta-parent to a tween.

Whew.
 

What have I missed - socially, emotionally, mentally, developmentally - in the last 3 years, from being a "little kid" at 8 to a "tween" at 11? What is "normal" life for a tween? How do I make life as normal for her as possible?

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#2 of 11 Old 08-04-2012, 07:47 AM
 
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Depends on the kid. Mine was pretty much a "little girl" until 12. She didn't even start her period until 14. If this girl has hit puberty, you might find some mood changes but it's possible that outside of experiences, she's not too different from the last time you were with her. 

 

Having a tween is walking that line between giving them more independence but still being very present. Personally, I think middle school-aged kids need the adults in their lives more than any other time on the emotional/cognitive development front. So, find ways to acknowledge that she's growing up and capable of more responsibility and independence but continue to keep her close, know her friends and what she's doing.

 

It's a time where friends can be the MOST important to them but their friends are also tweens and frankly, it can be an ugly time for even the nicest of individuals. I'd focus on finding her a quality, interest based group as soon as you can. If she's going to middle school, check out the local clothing scene and consider letting her start school with a few popular items. At this age, it's their "armor" as being different can be such the crime. I'm not saying to break the bank or wear anything you deem inappropriate... for my DD, it was grabbing a few sales rack Abercrombie t-shirts to supplement her wardrobe. With DS, it's not so much the label as having the right length of shorts. Believe me, the need for such items will pass... it's just that at this point, "looking" less different actually makes being different on the inside more acceptable to peers. 

 

I don't know what kind of girl she is but if she has any individual interests, get her situated in your area right away. It'll help with friends but the tween years can often bring apathy in girls (cause it's really not cool to care)... any passion or drive needs to be nurtured so they don't turn to pop-culture as their only life. Yeah, it's fine to have a favorite band or show, you just hope that they can still love basketball or water coloring too!

 

Good-luck to you and enjoy having your baby back for a bit!


Married mom of two, DD 17 and DS 13.
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#3 of 11 Old 08-05-2012, 02:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the input!

 

She's not too far into puberty I don't think. And she will be doing school at home while she's here, so clothes and fitting in in that way isn't an issue.

 

I think I'm on the right track. She's a sweet kid, and from what you've said, I think she (and I) will be fine and adjust well to life here.

 

I guess I hear so many stories about puberty = child turning into a monster, it kind of spooked me. Intellectually I know they're not true, I teach riding to kids this age and they're actually delightful for the most part, with an occasional bad apple, but it's a culturally-ingrained fear, I suppose!

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#4 of 11 Old 08-05-2012, 08:06 AM
 
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It's a fear with some validation. One-on-one, most tweens are just as wonderful as they were in elementary (at least to other adults.) Put them in packs and well, they aren't such a nice group. Many do lose their way during that time but the ones that continue with their interest-based activities seem to fare the best. The ones that immerse themselves in pop-culture, friends and nothing else, well, they can be pretty adrift. You work with tweens who are continuing with their interest in riding during this time, if you ever walk on a middle school campus, you'd get an idea of why the age range has such a bad rep.

 

Personally, my DD was fantastic all through middle school. We started having issues at 13 when she started high school. The issues would be nominal to other families I suppose but to see that shift in attitude can be disheartening. To watch them make poor choices, difficult. You can feel helpless when they bring on their own pain. It's really, really hard when the child that used to curl up in your lap and tell you everything is hiding away in her room and telling you nothing. However, it's a necessary shift and most come out the other end looking for connection again (though more mature and adult connection.) For us, age 13.5 to 14.5 were the worst (basically, puberty.) At 15, we're doing pretty great again but certainly, our relationship has morphed into something new.

 

I suspect your first year will be great. It's when you are fully re-connected and she's comfortable that it might get strange. Remember that they push against the people they trust to be there for them the most.


Married mom of two, DD 17 and DS 13.
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#5 of 11 Old 08-07-2012, 08:32 AM
 
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She will still need clothes and friends, even if she is homeschooling . In some ways, the friend thng can be more time consuming for you can more challanging.

Both of my kids were difficult when they were 12 - 13 1/2. They are going through a lot. They have new emotions and are on a hormonal rollar coaster.

I agree that it will most likely be pretty easy at first, partly because it will be new and she will still be a child. At some point, the new will wear off and she'll hit puberty. If those happen at the same time, brace yourself.

I hard to learn to maintain my own center when my kids lost theirs, and that how happy they were (or weren't ) wasn't a reflection of how I was doing as a parent.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#6 of 11 Old 08-07-2012, 08:32 AM
 
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She will still need clothes and friends, even if she is homeschooling . In some ways, the friend thng can be more time consuming for you can more challanging.

Both of my kids were difficult when they were 12 - 13 1/2. They are going through a lot. They have new emotions and are on a hormonal rollar coaster.

I agree that it will most likely be pretty easy at first, partly because it will be new and she will still be a child. At some point, the new will wear off and she'll hit puberty. If those happen at the same time, brace yourself.

I hard to learn to maintain my own center when my kids lost theirs, and that how happy they were (or weren't ) wasn't a reflection of how I was doing as a parent.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#7 of 11 Old 08-08-2012, 08:33 AM
 
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My dd is 12 years old.

She is capable of doing quite a few things herself but still has trouble with some stuff. She will not want help. She thinks she knows everything.

She entertains herself for hours. She does not need nor does she want me to do everything with her.

Dd can be a bit dramatic. Everything is really good or really bad. Lots of exclamation points.

Privacy and independence have become more important.

Dd cares more about clothes and stuff than she used to.

 

You should talk to her about puberty and stuff. Maybe get a book and some supplies for her even if she doesn't need them yet.

Dd seemed to like The American Girl book: The Care and Keeping of You.

 

How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Your Kids Will Talk has been a helpful book for me.


Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#8 of 11 Old 08-10-2012, 03:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Not sure what the preoccupation about clothes is? She's not terribly interested in it (clothes) herself, so it truly isn't an issue. If she is at some point I'm more than happy to go shopping with her but it really is not that big of a deal. And if they become a really big deal and consuming factor in her life or a deciding factor in her happiness, it's not something to celebrate and accommodate, IMO, but cause for a serious talk and some reassessment of priorities and perspective. I knew girls like that and I do not want any of my girls to be like that. Fashion-forward, neat and tidy, yes, but obsessed with brands and basing social/self worth/status off their clothing, no.

 

Of course she needs friends. Everyone does. I promise I have no intent of isolating her, friend-choosing, or making her into a homeschooled housebound hermit, LOL. We have plenty of groups in town and even a ready-made one that I teach who hang out here all the time that are already her good friends, from her hanging out here on weekends.

 

As for touring the local middle school, I know probably 1/2 or more of the middle school kids (small town and we're out and about a lot) and besides the few bad apples (which you get amongst every age group from infant to elder), few of them strike me as particularly mean, irrational, bad-tempered or unreasonable. Still not buying the "tweens/teens are monsters!!!" stuff, but I do appreciate the less alarmist tone from most here a great deal :)

 

The book sounds like a great suggestion!

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#9 of 11 Old 08-11-2012, 06:35 PM
 
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Twice you've used the word "monster". Although some people feel that way about adolescents, it's just not the view here on mothering. Moms here are attached to their kids, practice gentle positive discipline, and try to stay positive. We try to treat our kids like people with feelings!

None the less, this can be an emotional intense phase for any kid. This is a girl who has experienced tremendous loss, and is gearing up for more loss. She is moving away from her home and friends and saying good bye to her only parent. There is a massive difference between intellectually understanding that he needs to do this, and emotionally having peace with it.

Moving to a new town can be tough, stressful, and loney.

It's not a question of whether not she'll turn into a monster, she wont. She'll still be a child who needs love. The question is whether or not you are centered so that when the storms hit, which they most likely eventually will, you can be there for her. You are undertaking something difficult, and baling when you realize how tough it is would hurt her tremdously. Going in knowing that parts may be rough gives you a better chance of succeeding, and she NEEDS you to succeed.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#10 of 11 Old 08-13-2012, 09:37 AM
 
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That's great you get to be reunited with your girl. I myself have 2 sons ages 16 & 11.  My relationship with each son, albeit is not perfect (nor do I expect that) is very tight... even with my 16 year old.  I have a few thoughts about your upcoming situation.

 

 

1) I have learned that our children/teens change ... but most importantly I have learned that I need to be willing to shift, change & grow myself, this was some what (very, in the beginning) humbling.  By doing this I have been able to develop & maintain a deeper connection with my sons.  Just be open to growing with her; at that age she will be experiencing many different changes.

 

 

2) Teens are capable.  I believe, know & set the intent each day that each of my sons are fully capable- that they are capable to make appropriate decisions, to be good & serving human beings and that by their very nature of being human (humans want & need to grow) that they will gravitate towards their positive desires & goals.  

 

 

3)  You are capable!  That everything you need to be a "successful parent" already exists inside of you.  Trust your heart & instincts;  you already have a deep bond with this child, as if she were your own, so trust your heart to be a great mother and learn from mistakes. 

 

 

I believe that Successful Parenting is not always having an answer or the right answer, that it is not about always doing the right thing, etc.  Successful Parenting is Not about You Parenting Perfectly, It is YOU being PRESENT in Mind, Heart & Soul.  By Being PRESENT You Give Your Children and Yourself a Miraculous GIFT"

 

 

Successful Parenting is all about Listening, Learning & Loving.

 

 

We can not control our children or teens (that's an illusion I believe all parents struggle with ... until hopefully they do not anymore) I sure did!  We only can control our internal & external responses.

 

Good luck to you!

Peace & Blessings -

 

 

Joe Gandolfo, MA, LPC

 

Teen Life & Parenting Expert

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#11 of 11 Old 09-09-2012, 04:00 AM
 
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Do you have any rec sports in your area?  My 11 year old daughter plays volleyball and basketball and loves it. 

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