By: Sherri McKeen
Builders Club Specialist
Wikipedia defines tweens to be “in-between being a child and a teen. Tweens are children in the sense that they are not adolescents, but they differ from small children in that they are not primarily occupied with play”. If only it was that easy to understand young people in this complex stage!
If you aren't able to attend a workshop or read the plethora of information about this stage of development on the web, you have come to the right place. At Kiwanis, we consider the students in our middle school program, Builders Club, to be tweens. Whether you are volunteering with this club or working with middle school students in another capacity, here are a few things to remember:
- Struggling with a sense of identity and are feeling awkward about their bodies. Therefore, find time to complement their ideas and behaviors, and remind them they are appreciated.
- Mostly interested in the present with little focus on the future, so they are going to be much better with short term rewards and consequences than talking about something weeks or months away.
- Alternating between high expectations and poor self-esteem. They believe they can accomplish anything but when it doesn't happen, they are surprised and crushed. Help them set realistic goals.
- Experiencing the onset of puberty and this leads to unpredictable mood swings. Be prepared and don’t get sucked in by their mood changes.
- Realizing their parents are not perfect. Uh, oh.
- Wanting choices but need direction. By presenting a variety of ideas and allowing the youth to make decisions, they will feel a higher sense of accomplishment.
- Still exhibiting childish behavior, especially when stressed. Teach them new options for dealing with stress such as exercise, listening to music, writing or other healthy activities.
- Displaying unlimited enthusiasm. Let this be contagious.
- Taking a risk when they reaching out to an adults, so when they confide in you, always praise their courage.
Most importantly, know that each tween is developing differently, so take time to get to know the students in your life individually. This will help you better understand what makes them special as a person.
Hats off to you for taking on the challenge of working with tweens whether it is with a Builders Club or another group. If you are interested in learning more about Builders Club or starting a middle school service club in your school or community organization, check out www.buildersclub.org.
Information for this blog gathered from the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry and Fires in the Middle School Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from Middle Schoolers by Kathleen Cushman and Laura Rogers.