Prepping for the Tween Stage: Q+A


Prepping for the Tween Stage is a collaborative post between Amy Sanders and Katie Peel Vondera.



If you have a kid in the 8-12 age range, buckle up! You are approaching what has become known as the “tween” stage. It’s that awkward stage between childhood and the teenage years, and it is as much a rollercoaster for you as it is for them. Feeling anxious and unprepared? We asked senior contributors and tween mamas Amy Sanders and Katie Peel Vondera for their advice.


Is this when I need to start preparing for periods and body odor??? When does puberty actually happen?!

Amy:  The age range for puberty is absurdly wide – between 9-14, although girls typically go through it at least a year or two before boys. Helpful, right?! Some changes will be more subtle than others, but growth spurts and body odor are some of the first signs for boys. My daughter isn’t a tween yet, but given the math, she’ll be right behind her big brother, so Katie, help us out!

Katie:  Girls can start developing even earlier than the range Amy mentioned, but it can be a slow process, so while something like breast buds might appear early, the larger development might take years. I think it varies by child, so start mentally preparing early and have items on hand that your tweens may need, like pads and deodorant. 



Puberty is so cringey for both parent and tween – how can I be helpful without being embarrassing?

Amy:  Start talking about it with them early. 4th grade is the prime year for the “puberty video” many public school kids watch, so capitalize on that timing and continue the conversation at home. Also, introduce and normalize using hygiene products like body wash and deodorant before it’s a problem, and your tween may not be so embarrassed by the topic.

Katie:  Talking early about what to expect is spot on. They probably will not want to have these conversations, but they’re important, so new developments don’t come as a shock. And like talking with them early, you might even prep with supplies early, like making a period kit for your girls to have in their backpacks with pads and an extra pair of underwear. Or packing a stick of deodorant in your tween’s backpack for after PE class. 


Do all tweens have cell phones now? I’m terrified by introducing social media and technology. Help!

Amy:  My tween doesn’t, but I admit there are times when it would be handy to have a way to communicate with them when they are walking home from school or extracurricular activities or going between friends’ houses. I’m currently investigating smartwatch options that allow them to call/text with me and also allow me to ‘see’ where they are via GPS. 

Katie: My girls, now 11 and 12, both got phones at 11, but I’m slowly introducing social media. I needed them to have reliable devices to contact me when they were home alone or out around town with their friends. The first thing I did, though, was enable parental controls so I could limit and monitor their screen time and contacts. Over the past two years, I’ve been letting them dip their toes into the social media arena. First, I introduced a social media contract for the girls to sign. I found multiple online and then tweaked one to fit my expectations. Then we started with Instagram and limited it to 15 minutes a day, slowly increasing the time to 30 minutes. I have access to the account and monitor it as much as I can. My kids can’t change their passwords without telling me, either. It’s really scary to start letting them have social media, but I thought we should start somewhere so they don’t get it all at once and go crazy. But I’ll hold out on Snapchat for as long as I can.



My kid always made friends easily but now seems lost and lonely – what’s happening???

Amy:  Tweens are a dangerous combination of insecure and oversensitive. This is the prime age of mean girls and boys behaving badly. And while it’s perfectly normal for their interests to shift along with some friendships, tweens don’t always handle it well. 

Katie: Late elementary and middle school are big transition times. Kids are figuring out what they like and don’t like and making a lot more of their own decisions. This can lead to changes in friendships, and it’s hard to watch them grow apart from people they were once so close to. But this is normal, and it does get better. However, if it seems like it’s not, I’d encourage your tween to try something new, maybe an after-school activity at school or something in the community related to their interests, and they’ll find their people again.


Should I unleash Mama Bear? Or stay out of it?

Amy:  First, pay attention and watch for signs that they’re struggling. Talk to them and let them know that you’re there for them, but don’t be too quick to insert yourself in their drama or tell them how to handle it – they need to start learning how to navigate the world socially and all the rough patches that can come with it. But there are times when you should intervene (serious bullying and self-harm, for example).

Katie: I totally agree with Amy. You know your child well, so trust your gut when it seems like they’re struggling. Be there for them and listen when they need to talk, but don’t get overly involved right away unless it seems major. 



One month my tween is into graphic novels and wants to dye their hair blue, and the next, they’re trying out for the basketball team and begging for expensive sneakers. I’m getting whiplash from all changes! Is that normal?

Amy:  Your tween isn’t suffering from a multiple-personality disorder (although it can feel like it) – they are trying out different identities, sometimes at a baffling pace. They also tend to go “all in” on anything at this age, so they do a deep dive into new and sometimes uber-specific interests. Try not to get too sad when their preferences shift and you have to say goodbye to ballet classes and hello to electric guitar lessons. Roll with it! 

Katie: Oh my gosh, these changes just keep coming, don’t they? This is good, actually, because your tween is trying things and finding out what feels right for them. I’d say let them explore these new interests whenever you can because it will help them figure out who they are and who they want to be. 



Okay, so my tween has already hit puberty, has started wearing makeup and deodorant, and loves to spend time hanging out in public with friends talking about their crushes. I can finally pack the Barbies away, right?

Amy:  Nope, not yet! Tweens are famous for their ability to act like mini-teenagers one minute and then quickly revert back to playing with toys the next. You were already sad about your baby growing up, right??? These moments are like a gift – embrace them!

Katie: I’ve recently seen my girls go back to watching Disney Channel shows they loved when they were younger, much to my surprise. But I think there’s a comfort in those shows (or those old toys): they’re less complicated than real life and they’re kind of a good escape from the daily pressures of being a tween. So don’t cancel that Disney subscription or toss those Barbies just yet, your child may want that old comfort sometime soon. 

Okay, this is great! Bring on the tween stage! And be sure to check out St. Louis Mom’s Where to Take Tweens Guide!