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The rapid pace of change and the increase in technology have exposed children to unprecedented levels of information and experiences. One result of this appears to be an identifiable stage of development called ‘tweens’; that distinct period of development between childhood and adolescence. This period is recognisable by the onset of intense social interest focused on friendships and peer activity, and a growing interest in the trends and fashions of the day.

The ‘tweens’ is a difficult period for parents as their child moves away from the family and closer to friendships. It is a period that is both extremely important and challenging for families and individuals alike, as relationships change and the scene is set for the journey ahead into adolescence and young adulthood.

One person's experience

Zach is an 11 year-old boy who lives with his mother Angela and 8 year-old sister Tameka. Lately, Zach has been getting into bigger and more frequent arguments with his mum, which has worried her enough to see a psychologist together with Zach.

Over the past six months especially, Angela has noticed real changes in Zach. As a sole parent working to provide for Zach and his younger sister, Angela has struggled with Zach’s increasing requests. Zach has begged his mum for fashionable hoodies, skinny jeans and street clothes, expensive brand-name shoes (that in her opinion look barely practical!), weekend outings to watch M-rated blockbusters with friends of his that she’s barely met, the latest and most expensive mp3 player on the market, and more recently, a mobile phone.

When Zach is denied these requests – either because Angela can’t afford them or she believes he’s still too young – the two of them usually end up locking horns. “It always ends the same way”, Angela explained to the therapist. “Both of us end up raising our voices, and eventually Zach storms off, but not before blaming me for his unpopularity at school, and insisting that I’m being unreasonable because every other parent has bought their children those things. The last thing I want is for him to be bullied or feel like an outcast, and at the same time, I just don’t think he’s old enough to do those things his friends are doing and have those things I can’t afford anyway. What do I do?”

With the help of a psychologist, Angela was able to make changes in her family that improved her relationship and communication with Zach without compromising her overall parenting values or breaking her budget. The process was different to what she imagined, but with an open mind and willingness, she had navigated this critical developmental stage in a way that left her feeling more prepared for the challenges ahead in raising Zach through his teenage years around the corner. She also now felt more confident about managing Tameka’s ‘tween’ years to come.

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