Navigating Tween Years
I was a tomboy growing up. I loved sports, ponytails and nothing pink or frilly. My daughter, however, is completely the opposite.
If it seems as if your tween knows far more at nine than you did, that’s probably because she does. Kids today grow up faster than ever before. Perhaps the greatest irony is that while my kids seem more mature earlier, I’m trying to stay young. 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40. At the rate my tweens are growing up and I’m trying not to, I’ll seem the same age as them in no time.
Self-Image at the In-Between Age
My daughter is at an age when she’s not a kid anymore, but she’s also not a teen yet either. Caring a lot about hair and makeup and how she looks is normal at her age.
In today’s culture when kids—even young kids—are bombarded with images in the media about what’s considered beautiful and cool, it’s hard for them not to be concerned with how they look. Unfortunately, these images in the media are often suggestive and provocative.
Marketing & Media’s Influence on Tween Fashion
Today’s tweens often dress as if they are older. This is due in great part to marketers and manufacturers. Walk into any store targeted at tweens and you may be shocked by the clothing selection. The apparel often mimics adult selections in miniature sizes.
My children also have far more access to the media. As a result, they’re more exposed to celebrity fashion, and they covet what they see. Marketers argue that they’re simply providing what the public wants. But with little else available, are my tweens really being given much choice? During the tween years, my kids are so focused on what others think that they will quickly grab onto the newest trend.
A Mismatch Between Appearance & Maturity
Tweens who dress older and act older sometimes send the message that they can think older. This, however, is far from true. The tween brain lacks the capacity to truly understand the potential consequences of acting older.
I know that by focusing on her appearance and her style, she’s trying to figure out who she is. I try to remind myself that this is normal for her age. It’s a way for her to “try on” different identities or personalities to figure out which feels just right to her. That doesn’t mean that everything she chooses to wear is age appropriate, so I set limits.
How I Empower My Tween to Make Age-Appropriate Choices
Because technology has opened the world wider for my child, it’s up to me to set reasonable expectations about who she is and how much she really knows.
I started voicing my concerns about her outfits and expressed to her that she is beautiful without makeup. I tell her that it’s normal to try on different styles to figure out what feels right, and I want her to express herself within reason.
But I have rules. She’s not allowed to leave the house wearing crop tops and body shorts to school. Instead, I suggested she “play dress up” within the comfort and privacy of our own home but not wear those articles of clothing in public. I explain to her that it’s important to wear clothes that aren’t too revealing because it shows that she respects her body and that others should, too.
I also try to compromise when I can. I took her back-to-school shopping to find new clothes that she thought were cool and I thought were appropriate for her to wear. I am the parent, so I get to decide what clothes I will buy her.
Ultimately, I want to empower her. She might disagree with what I am saying, and that’s okay. I learn a lot when I seek her opinion and listen to everything she’s heard and seen about the topic. Collyns is strong-minded, but she looks to me for support and guidance. I respond with structure, predictability and the guidelines that she needs to navigate the world.
When I treat my children like children, they are more likely to act that way. By allowing my tweens to dress and act their real age, I can ensure that their short childhoods stay sweet.
Babies & Toddlers