10 Essentials for Surviving the Tween Years

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by Joy Dombrow
Oregon Writer

Just a step past the golden years of parenting (the age between 5 and 10), both of my kiddos are firmly in the years preceding teenage-hood. The tween years, they call them.

Simply the word, “tween” conjures up images of the idolization of iconic young pop stars, or mall stores catering to the fashion of these young ones, or silly teen magazines. Thankfully, this is not the reality in our home. We are very much enjoying this stage and all the fun that comes with it. However, we have noticed that having a 10-12 year old influences our family practices and culture.

It is a unique time of life, arguably one of the busiest. Sports ramp up to a peak. Kids are still trying out all sports and activities and have yet to narrow them down. All practices are arranged for the convenience of volunteer coaches and therefore are usually scheduled for the dinner hour (unlike high school sports which occur right after school), and since they cannot drive, families are constantly shuttling kids around.

School requires more diligence, organization, and effort…all things that tweens have not yet mastered. They still need parental help and supervision for homework. Never mind the hormonal and emotional ups and downs that must be navigated with care. It’s a unique season, indeed. Out of necessity, we have stumbled upon some key tools and strategies to help us thrive during this wonderful stage of life.

1. A Good Carpool. This, my friends, is the only way to survive if you have active children. Anyone who tries to go it alone is crazy. Crazy, I tell ya.


2. A Workable Calendaring System. It’s during these tween years that you realize that you must now work around your children’s schedules, not just consider your own. Whether it’s vacations, entertaining, or finding family time together, scheduling can be a nightmare if you don’t have a way to keep track of it all. I prefer to use the calendar on my mac and then sync my iphone to it so that I have my calendar with me at all times. A lot of moms carry around “mommy planners” to keep everything straight. It doesn’t matter what you use, it just has to be something!

3. Crockpot Meals. Again, with sports and activities surrounding dinner time, people are always coming and going. It’s nice to have something warm and ready for when hunger strikes (which is usually at the most inconvenient times). Never mind the fact that if you have dinner prep done early in the day, you can spend the rest of your time focusing on the kids’ homework, etc. I do homemade spaghetti sauce, pulled pork sandwiches, soups, and chicken, slow cooked style. Even if I don’t do crockpot meals, I try to have dinner done by 3:00. Then I can just heat it when we need it. Sometimes we even do dinner at snack time.

4. A Family Cell Phone. We recently got rid of our land line, but with young ones still in the house, learning to stay at home alone sometimes, they need a way to call out. Enter, the family cell phone. It’s just a cheap add on to our current plan, and can be loaned out to the kids when they go to a friend’s house or to an event. We just aren’t ready for them to have personal cell phones. Problem solved.

5. Hand Me Downs. They grow like weeds. Enough said.

6. Family Friends. It is a difficult season of life to have personal, grown up friends, apart from the family. It just is. There is too much to juggle. You can fight it, or go with it. It’s important that internal support structures are built around our children, and the best way to do that is to be friends with their friends’ families. For accountability, for protection, for universal fun.

7. Family Vacations. Joel and I figured out that we probably only have four or five more summer family vacations left before our children get jobs, go on missions trips, or just don’t want to “hang” with the family anymore. This stage of life is so important for building memories and tying heart strings, so that our children are more secure and receptive to our influence during the teenage years. Never mind the fact that everyone is going in so many different directions, it is important to spend concentrated time together.

8. Quiet Times. A Bible and a gratitude journal. For me, and for the kids. Slowing down, learning to lean into God, and focusing on things that are most important are essential for maintaining healthy relationships and a right perspective. Important life habits are being formulated now.

9. Wisdom and Discernment. Gone are the days when the greatest problem of my day was that my child did not take a good nap. Issues have become much more complex. Solutions are not always black and white. Emotions are involved. Relationships are on the line. Self-esteem is fragile. It takes great wisdom as a parent to know how to navigate through it all. Fear the Lord. Use His word as your guide. Stay calm. Speak life giving words. Mourn when they mourn, and rejoice when they rejoice. And, ask God for wisdom beyond your years.

10. Prayer, prayer, and more prayer. As our children grow, we are rightfully losing control over our children and releasing them into the world. Thankfully, God is with them always and we can make requests of Him and show our trust, through prayer. So many “problems” have been solved through prayer. But more importantly, my children’s character have been shaped by it.

What things have been helpful for you as you’ve raised your tween? Please do share!