The standard preteen years are from ages nine to 12 years old. The beginning of puberty brings an influx of hormones and new changes that characterize these years of transition. Preteens, also known as tweens, are between a child and a teen in both age and temperament.
The preteen years are defined by many body changes for both girls and boys due to puberty. These tween years offer the most surprises because they mark the beginning of the transition from child to teenager. By the time most preteens reach 13 or 14, they are getting used to the idea of adolescence, and these adjustments, while still significant, are not typically as stressful as the preteen years.
Common changes include the following:
- Voice deepening
- Body hair growth
- Breast development
- Bone lengthening
- Beginning of menstrual cycle
- Body odor adjustments
Although all these changes are universal, they do occur at different times for each preteen. Genetics and gender plays a large role in when puberty strikes. Even if all your friends' bodies are changing differently than yours, don't let it worry you. By the end of your teen years, it all evens out.
Feeling normal is both difficult and important during the preteen years. As bodies are changing, the desire to fit in intensifies. One critical thought is remembering everyone is normal and unique at the same time. While your own preteen experience is special, keep in mind that is what also makes it normal.
Along with the emotions tied to what your body is experiencing, your mind is evolving too. Feelings of all shapes and sizes become more intense. You will react differently to situations than you used too, and you may not even know why. When your little brother makes that funny noise which used to make you laugh, all of a sudden it makes you angry instead. Rest assured this will all even out in time as your hormones and mind begins to settle down.
Friendships and social structure also shift during these years. Many teens experience stronger desires to feel a sense of place. This can cause you to feel alone, even in a crowd. Instead of focusing on what makes you different, look for others who appear to have the same interests. Branch out and find your place. Accept this time as one of transition and instead of fighting it, embrace it.
With all this activity and surge of hormones, how can a preteen maintain her sanity? While you can't fight biology, you can help ease the stress through the following tips:
- Stay active. Keeping fit and having outside activities helps your body and mind stay strong and sharp. It also gives you a healthy outlet for releasing all this additional turmoil.
- Eat right. While it may sound cliché, good nutrition really does help a body grow. Eating healthy foods will help you weather stress and ease this transition with a stronger position.
- Maintain friendships. Although their experiences won't be exactly the same as yours, friends are certainly going through changes too. Don't bottle up all these emotions inside; instead, bond with your friends, hold hands, and move forward together.
Feelings can quickly get out of control, and you may not know what to do. Preteens have so much additional stress and angst; it is good to know where to turn when things get crazy. Keep this list of quality national hotlines handy, just in case:
- National Institute on Drug Abuse 1-800-662-HELP
- Teen Relationships 800-300-1080
- ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD
- Hopeline National Suicide Hotline 1-800-SUICIDE
As you move away from childhood, more will be expected of you. While this can be fun, it also equates to more responsibilities. Both parents and teachers will expect more. Helping out around the house with chores, more homework, serious testing, and being home alone are common in these years. Although more is expected, you may also feel frustrated by being treated like a child. Keep your perspective. In order to grow up you have to prove yourself responsible. It isn't something that happens automatically. Instead of arguing with your parents about how they need to trust you, earn their trust through your actions.