What Are Tweens?

Tween boy

What are tweens? It seems like everyone is asking that question these days. Find out what a "tween" is and how tweens differ from other youth age groups.

So, What are Tweens

Have you noticed a change in your child lately? Is little Johnnie no longer interested in his Pokemon card collection? Has Sarah decided that baby dolls are for babies and begun asking for makeup instead?

If this sounds like the changes going on in your own household, congratulations: your child is becoming a tween. What are tweens? The definition changes a bit, depending on who is answering the question, but the generally accepted answer is that tweens are children who fall into the eight to twelve year old category.

Tweens occupy a precarious position in life; they're caught between the throws of childhood and their teenage years. They're beginning to display behaviors that foreshadow their young adult years to come, sometimes to their parents' dismay.

The Tween Psyche

More elusive than defining what a tween is, is figuring out what makes this age group tick. Throughout early childhood, it's usually easy to decipher what your child wants and needs because you understand how he/she thinks. It's the same way you think, and your child learned it from you.

However, the tween years signal the beginning of the long journey of separation between child and parent as kids begin to think for themselves. They've got a strong desire to become their own person, not just an extension of mom and dad.

This separation can be painful, not just for parents but for tweens too. Here lies the heart of the matter: the tween psyche is quite fragile. Even as children begin to break out on their own they still need a lot of affirmation, and they'll look for that affirmation in nearly any direction.

What their peers think becomes extremely important to tweens, sometimes more so than what they think themselves. And even though most tweens tend to adopt opposite view points from their parents on many topics, they still crave emotional support, whether they can admit it openly or not.

The Rush to Grow Up

The hallmark of tweens seems to be a serious rush to grow up and skip the rest of childhood altogether. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their appearance.

Girls tend to make the biggest fashion changes. Gone are the patent leather Mary Janes. They've been replaced by chunky, heavy-heeled black shoes and boots. Pinafores and jumpers are out too, replaced by hip huggers and midriff tops. Everything is open to experimentation. This includes exotic hair colors and glitter makeup.

The change in boys is a bit more subtle, but you can still see it. Before the tween years, most boys could care less what their clothes and hair look like. Then suddenly, they no longer want mom to pick out their clothing, mainly because she'll buy clothing that actually fits. Many tween boys want to look like the older kids sporting baggy pants with designer brand T-shirts. Hair is also a subject for tween expression. No more barber shop clips; the tween boy wants to emulate his favorite pop star or sports idol.

Weathering these fashion changes can be enough to make a parent's hair turn gray; however it's all part of the bargain. Parents need to find that murky middle ground between stifling their child's emerging sense of self and still providing enough guidance to keep his/her decisions reasonable; all the while knowing that their input may be less than appreciated.


So, what are tweens? Probably some of the most complicated creatures on the planet. It's hard to understand what they think or what they want because they often aren't sure themselves.

The key to getting along with your tween is by staying in touch. Listen actively when your child is speaking to you. Resist the temptation to jump in and solve problems or lay down an unnecessarily hard line. Tweens are ready to start solving pieces of their own life puzzle, but whether they say so or not, they also want to know their parents are still there to offer support and guidance when it's needed.

What Are Tweens?