Summering with Tweens: 3 Tips for Survival


With summer upon us, my twelve-year-old boy has recently taken to hibernating in his room for hours at a time. We rarely see him, although he does occasionally descend to the kitchen for food. Doritos and Oreos, mainly. I FaceTime him sometimes just to see his cute face and remind him that we love him.

Many mammals hibernate in winter, but the Tween Boy Mammal chooses summer to go into hibernation mode. Faced with long days at home, this tactic is primarily to avoid contact with parents, who are SO ANNOYING and SO LAME. At first, I was worried about this seemingly self-isolating behavior, but a quick search of the internet reveals it’s NORMAL.

He’s happy as a lark up there, doing…whatever it is he’s doing. WHAT IS HE DOING?

The Internet also recommends several techniques to lure the tween out of his room. Encourage his hobbies, they say. Tell him to get some fresh air, they suggest. Force some family time on him, they advise.

I’m here to tell you I’ve tried everything, and I think it’s best to just leave the tween in his native habitat: his room.

Psychologists say the tween’s need for alone time and privacy is normal and even necessary. Dr. Peter Marshall, a child psychologist, said, “Although it’s tempting to think they’re just goofing off when they’re alone, they’re actually spending a large part of their time thinking about things, trying to figure out who they are and who they want to become.”

So THAT’S what he’s doing up there.

As is necessary in this new phase of parenting, I’m trying my best to let go of the reins and let him do what he needs to do to become independent. It’s not easy though; he’s grumpy and sassy and sometimes I want to drop-kick him to the floor. I miss my sweet little boy, but that ship has sailed. We are on a new journey now, fraught with hormones.

Summer offers its own challenges, with its long days and extra family time. Here are some tips for summering with tweens that I’m hoping will help me remember to take a breath, be supportive, and not throttle my little love.

Tips for summering with teens

1. Recognize hormones are the real deal.

Preteens are beginning their ascent into adulthood, and this rocky road is paved by estrogen and testosterone. These hormones can make them prickly one second and clingy the next, and your tween may find themselves in the middle of a 0-to-60 tantrum and not know how the heck he got there. Now is the time to give some grace, some selfless love, and some space to cool down.

During this time, their frontal lobes are experiencing huge growth and an overhaul in brain wiring. The frontal lobes are like the “CEO” of the brain, controlling decision-making, predicting the future, and resolving conflicting emotions.

2. Just shush.

Although it can be tempting to implode and slap a lecture onto a grumpy tween, now is the time to listen more and talk less. Being a non-judgmental support system and a soft place to land is crucial as they navigate their new hormonal landscape. Due to my voice being the “most annoying sound on the planet,” we instituted Nag-Free Fridays in our house. It’s the one day of the week when I wholeheartedly promise not to lecture and nag. The tween looks forward to it all week.

3. Don’t take it personally.

When the chorus of “I hate you” and “You are a mistake of nature” begin to break your heart, you have to remind yourself not to take it personally. Keep calm and stand your ground. Walk away if you need to. For tweens, distancing and asserting themselves are natural at this age. As a parent, you can demand respect and still be loving and calm. The best way to earn their respect is to treat them with respect as well.

Every phase of parenting has its challenges. Watching your baby gradually morph into an adult is equal parts amazing and weird. With the influx of hormones, the extra “quality family time” that summer brings can be both a gift and a minefield.

Actually, I may take up hibernating in my room too.