The Major Milestones in a Tween's Life

Kids laughing by the lake at camp
Jill Chen/Stocksy United

Your child is getting older and preparing for his or her years as a teenager and a young adult. While you may not notice day-to-day all the changes and milestones your tween is experiencing, chances are your tween is well aware and excited by them, or is looking forward to certain events and occasions.

Your child will face a number of special events and first-time experiences the next few years, and all of them are important in one way or another. Below are a few milestones your tween is probably looking forward to during the tween years. Some you may need to prepare for, others will just be moments to enjoy and remember. No matter the circumstances, be sure you and your child enjoy the milestones and experiences that are coming your way.

Looking Older

As a parent, you probably would love it if you could keep your child little just a while longer. While you may not be eager for your child to mature and grow up, your tween probably is. Most tweens want to look older and more mature than they really are, and many of them will mimic teenager fashion styles, habits, and other mannerisms so that they appear mature and cool.

There are several dangers in this behavior. Your child is still young and is not ready for the situations that older children may find themselves facing. And, while your tween is eager to grow up, you as a parent know that the downsides to maturity can be overwhelming and demanding, and giving away precious childhood years is not a good idea.

Help your tween learn to live in the moment, and enjoy the experiences that he or she is developmentally prepared for. Setting limits and heart-to-heart discussions should help your child learn how to make the most of the tween years while looking forward to the teenage years. 

Staying Home Alone

Your child has probably been in the presence of adults or older siblings his or her entire life, but your child is probably wondering what it will be like to stay home alone. Staying home alone means your child is maturing and growing up, and that you trust your tween to handle things for a short period of time. While your child is probably not ready to stay alone for long periods of time, your tween might be responsible enough for short experiences alone.

Make sure you know your state or local laws before you consider leaving your tween by his or her self. Also, some tweens may not be comfortable without adult supervision, so know whether or not your tween is truly ready for the experience before you test the waters. 

Earning and Spending Their Own Money

For many tweens the thought of babysitting or earning money pet sitting, or in any other way is exciting. These older children can't wait to take on a job so that they can earn their money and spend it, or save it for something special. Some tweens may want to work just so they can prove that they can make a contribution to the family. Your tween may be ready to work long before you're ready for him or her to work.

If your child is begging to join the workforce, you can help. Give your child work to do around the house, and set deadlines. Be sure your child learns how to manage time, ask for help, and follow through with a job, even if it's difficult or unpleasant. Provide your child with safe responsibilities that will help your tween develop the skills needed once he or she enters the working world for real.

Taking a Trip Without You

Many tweens are eager and ready to embrace adventure, but that can be difficult to do when mom or dad is hanging around. That's why older children often enjoy taking field trips or even vacations without mom and dad, and their siblings.

Before you volunteer for every class field trip, be sure you ask your child if he or she would rather go without you, and don't take it personally if they do. Or, consider sending your tween away for a weekend at a relative's house or with a good and trusted friend, or overnight camp. Overnight camp gives tweens the opportunity to make new friends, learn important skills, and have an adventure of their very own. Whatever experience you choose, remember that it will help your tween develop independence and problem-solving skills, and may even give you a break, as well. 

Going to a High School Football Game

Your child may be heading to middle school, but he or she is already beginning to think about high school and all the fun that comes with it. Attending a high school function, such as a high school football game, is something many tweens can't wait to do. Attending any high school function or event is exciting for tweens who typically idolize teenagers, and find high school exciting and grown up. If your child is interested in attending a high school game or a high school play or concert consider going together so you can also learn more about the school and foster your child's interest in his or her future high school experience. 

Finding a Boyfriend or Girlfriend

You might not be terribly excited about your child dating or finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, but your tween may feel differently. Today's tweens are anxious to pair off with a significant other and to make sure everyone knows it. Most of these unions are temporary and not very serious, but if your child wants to date, you'll have to make your own rules and expectations very clear. You may even need to write a "dating" contract that you and your tween sign, just so there's no misunderstands about what is and is not allowed.

While dating may not be as serious as it can be in high school, it can also impact your child's moods and self-esteem when arguments or breaks ups arise, so be prepared to help your child get back on his or her feet after an experienced disappointment. 

Joining a Club

Middle school gives tweens the opportunity to do more socially than elementary school. Most schools offer after-school clubs or organizations your child can join, or sports teams or intramural sports clubs. Staying after school to participate in a club can be a thrill to young children, who previously went straight home after school.

Encourage your child to investigate the options at his or her school, and try to help your tween find a club or team that fits with their personality. If your child already plays sports, you might encourage your tween to do something completely different, like join the environment club or the Spanish club. Experimentation is crucial to helping your tween discover something new and maybe even a new interest or passion.

Being in Charge of Something

Tweens are developing physically, emotionally and intellectually, and they want you to know it. Many tweens become very excited at the idea of being in charge of something. Your tween may want to be in charge of younger siblings while you're busy making dinner, or your child may want to participate in an event or project in which he or she can be the lead. Allow your child to hone leadership skills by delegating age-appropriate tasks to him or her.

You might consider putting your child in charge of cleaning out the pantry, organizing the garage, or planning a new vegetable garden. Tweens can also learn by helping decorate at the holidays, take more responsibility for their homework or class projects, or by participating in an organization or civic group that tackles community projects or special events. Match your child's interests with projects, and see how quickly your tween learns new skills and takes pride in making a difference. 

Finding a True Passion

Tweens are anxious to develop their own sense of self and an identity that is different and separate from their parents. This phase of development is normal, and parents shouldn't take this stage personally. In fact, you can pat yourself on the back for helping your child feel comfortable enough to express him or herself and experiment with identities, interests, and abilities.

Many tweens want to find a hobby or passion that helps them say who they are. They may embrace sports, arts, or sciences so that they can make a statement to themselves or their peers. Some tweens will be anxious to join clubs (or other organizations) and take on more responsibilities with those groups. Support your tweens passions, and don't be surprised or disappointed if your child jumps around from interest to interest. It's all a part of the process. 

Becoming Closer to You

Believe it or not, your tween probably wants a closer relationship with you than you thought. While your child is developing a circle of friends and relying on those friendships more and more, he or she also wants a close relationship with you, the parent. While you still have to parent your child, and set limits, you should also enjoy your tween and this phase of development.

Your child is growing up, and you get to see all the wonderful ways your tween is maturing. You may even get a glimpse of what your child’s young adult persona is beginning to look like, and that can be validation that you’re doing a good job as a mom or dad.