The Terrific and the Terrible! - A Parents' Guide to Tweens


  1. What age are tweens?
  2. What does tween mean?
  3. How can you help your tweens?
  4. Is 13 a teenager or tween?
  5. What is the difference between preteens and tweens?


As the name suggests, tweens are the age be’tween’ a child and a teenager, a time when amazing things are happening to both body and mind. As a child, it can be confusing, brilliant, scary, liberating and stressful. As a parent, it’s probably going to be the same with a big dose of worry on top! 

There’s so much focus on the teenage years, that parents are often surprised that pre-teenage behaviour and transformation are almost as monumental. Here we’ll give you some insight into what to expect and the tools to take on what could be your biggest challenge yet! 💪high-school-students-teenagers (1)

What age are tweens?


With parenthood comes an amazing array of new phrases to describe developmental stages and ages: under 1s, toddler tantrums, difficult teenagers and so on. A relatively new term is tweens. So, what is a tweenager? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a tweens definition is a child between the ages of approximately eight and twelve


What does tween mean?


It means a time of transition when a number of things happen which can upset the status quo. This can be unnerving and lead to you questioning your ability to parent. OK, you’ve probably done this before now, but a tweens age is going to test this more than ever:



A growth spurt not only means in height but also bigger hands and feet! And body hair signals the signs of puberty.


At this time, your child will find that more of their baby teeth are falling out, perhaps a big sign that tweens are no longer little children.


Boys will get larger genitals, girls will start to develop breasts and get their period. According to global data, girls are now entering puberty around a year younger than they were in the 1970s. Breast development is usually the earliest sign that tweens are starting puberty and researchers believe BMI could play a part in this happening at a younger age. The same reason for early puberty can be seen in boys: a 50-year study in Sweden saw that PHV (peak height velocity) dropped from 14.2 years in 1947 to 13.7 years in 1996.


The development of acne is an unwelcome and unwanted sight for any child of this age. It often causes emotional pain and leads to a lack of confidence and a negative self image. 😔 The good news is, it does go in time, but this doesn’t help your child when they’re living through it.



One of the most worrying aspects of a tweens age is that they’re more likely to take risks online or otherwise. One reason is peer influence. For example, a recent study found that if adolescents have friends who smoke, they’re twice as likely to smoke themselves. Many believe that the slow development of the prefrontal cortex part of the brain is also a factor. However, recent research questions this and seems to show that impulsiveness is influenced more by the desire to learn new things about the world. 🌍


With all the changes tweens experience, it’s no wonder they’re going to need more sleep. We get that this is especially tricky if they refuse to go to bed. But when lie-ins are possible, we’d suggest you let them, within reason of course! It’s not good for anyone to be in bed all day, especially if they’re actually spending all the time on their phones!


Remember that kid who went out mixing an array of patterns and colours and didn’t care what anyone else thought? Well, they may have gone. Temporarily at least! As tweens they’ll have a greater sense of themselves and wanting to fit in. "They’re starting to realize that there are other opinions and values and viewpoints than their own," says Dr. Kirmayer, a clinical psychologist.


This age brings about mood swings which is completely normal: they have both a heightened reaction to emotion but also a lag in development in the area of their brain which is responsible for regulating emotion. This is something that is hard for them to navigate.



There is often a shift from family to friends: they’ll probably be keener to cycle off with their mates than hang around the house with you. The child who always wanted to hold your hand may now even be embarrassed to be seen with you. It’s harsh on parents, but it’s not forever! 💓

Peer group

Problems close to home such as sibling rivalry may be replaced with friendship issues. On the one hand, there could be problems with bullying. On the other hand, with the right friends, they may gain more confidence in themselves. And remember that many of them will be about to or just have finished primary and started secondary. This transition can mean a shift in friendship groups or completely new ones.


The gender code is the volume of messages that children receive from the media, parents, teachers, and society about what it means to be male or female: how they should feel, look, act, do anything! This is ever-present but is louder than ever at tweens age when their bodies are starting to change. This can be stressful enough but more so for those bringing up their kids gender-neutral or if your child is struggling with gender identity.


Tweens are trying to find their own identity. Don’t be surprised if they’re fickle. It takes time to figure out how they like to dress, what their taste is in clothes, who they choose to hang around with and so on.


How can you help your tweens?


It is true that tweens are gaining more independence at this age and changing physically as well. What is also true is that they are still children. They’ll need guidance along the way however much they tell you they can do things by themselves! Here are some of our tips for parents with tweens: 👇

  • Stay connected. Yes, we know. Communication can be tricky at the best of times. But have those difficult conversations about staying safe, sex, drugs and alcohol. At worst it may be one-sided, at best they may ask questions and engage. Whichever, it’s better than not having the conversation at all. And it will provide another angle to the conversations about the same topics they may be having with their peers, who, let’s face it, have far less life experience than you! 
  • Help them make good decisions. This is different from making the decision for them. Highlighting the pros and cons will give them good decision-making skills for the future. 
  • Be a good role model. They are looking at you so chances are if you eat well, sleep enough, express your emotions and exercise regularly, they will do the same. This all leads to good mental health. If you’re concerned about your child, early intervention is key and there’s a lot of help out there. According to Young Minds, the pandemic has seen a rise in mental health problems:

One in six children aged five to 16 were identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2021, a huge increase from one in nine in 2017. 

  • Don’t drop your standards. Just because they are growing up doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for bad behaviour. You may feel this will push your once-lovely little child away from you further. I mean, you’re already having to deal with them growing up so fast! The truth is, though, that boundaries are more important than ever with pre-teenage behaviour. This consistency could actually help them in a time of change. They work for their pocket money, they don’t spend too long on TikTok, they shouldn’t lie to you, this kind of thing. Get it right now as tweens and you may have an easier ride when they’re teens! 👍
  • Don’t belittle their feelings. Sure, you have far greater things to worry about than what socks look best with their shoes, but this is their world, and at this moment, this is important to them and they’ve asked you for your opinion!


Is 13 a teenager or tween?


Some children develop earlier and will have gone through the tween stage, becoming a fully-fledged teen at 13. Others develop later and may still be showing some tween traits so it really depends on your child. 


What is the difference between preteens and tweens?


As we said before, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, a tweens definition is a child between the ages of approximately eight and twelve

In answer to the question of what age is pre-teenager, the same dictionary states it is "a boy or girl between the ages of about nine and twelve.

There you have it. Not much! In fact, these terms are often used interchangeably.

We hope you now feel better informed about how to get through these potentially difficult years. You never know, it may not be as bad as you think. Dare we say it, you may actually enjoy it! 😍