ATTN Parents: Being a 12-Year-Old Is Hard

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They’re not babies, not teenagers and not adults. Being a 12-year-old is hard for kids. It’s hard for parents, too. Maybe understanding how they feel will make it easier.

I spent some time, way too much maybe, watching videos of 12-year-old kids who talked about how it feels to be them. It was eye-opening.

Yes, parents remember what life was like for them at 12, but they might have a tendency to forget how hard it was. I’m hoping this will help us all remember that time in our lives so that we can be better parents to our kids.

Being a 12-Year-Old Is Hard

Being a 12-Year-Old Is (Really) Hard

1. Being laughed at is like a knife to the heart. Whether it’s a girl laughing at a boy who likes her or being laughed at for their shoes, it’s painful for these 12-year-olds. They desperately want to blend in, and having your peers or parents laughing at you is an announcement to the world that they are different.

2. Learning about the opposite sex is tricky. It’s hard-wired nature, so trying to fight the interest your son or daughter has in the other young sons and daughters of the world is futile.

Yes, you can (and should) set healthy boundaries for your 12-year-old, but be sure to really listen and validate their feelings.

3. Parents are dumb. Moms and dads sometimes say the dumbest, most embarrassing things in the whole world. At least that’s how your 12-year-old sees it.

Even so, the day is coming when they’ll believe you to be the smartest, most wonderful parent ever. They may be in their 20s before they do.

4. They are like you, but they don’t want to be. For example, if you’re a vegetarian, they probably are, too. For their whole life that may have been just fine.

Now they have friends who eat hamburgers and pepperoni pizza. Try not to flip out when they come home with a Big Mac on their breath. They’re experimenting.

5. Pre-teens are likely getting bullied in some way. Even if no one is beating them up and taking their lunch money, other 12-year-olds who are trying to find their own path will say and do hurtful things to your child.

This is an important and pivotal event in their lives. (READ: This Boy Can’t Speak or Walk Because of Bullying.)

Above all, if they are being bullied at school or elsewhere, it needs to be taken very seriously. Don’t tell them the bullies are just jealous. Don’t tell them to buck up and deal with it. Talk to the school and the teacher and anyone else who can help. Most of all, be your child’s shelter in the storm.

6. Getting away with things is tougher. When they were younger they could get away with the whole “it wasn’t me” who broke the lamp or left spaghetti splatters in the microwave. They know you’re onto them now. They’ll still try to sneak one by you, but they know exactly what they’re doing.

They’ve only been on the planet 4380 days!

7. Clothes are more important than almost anything else. As a good parent, you encourage them to shy away from following the crowd. All they want right now is to blend into the crowd.

If that means wearing clothes that look exactly the same as everyone else in their school, accommodate them when and if you can. Even if you refuse to buy the expensive brands, it’s a teachable moment about making and saving money to buy what they want.

8. They’re afraid of weird things. Were you afraid of something when you were a kid? Maybe it was the Thriller video, or of being left at home alone. Your kids are, too.

Telling them not to be is a waste of your breath and doesn’t do anything to help them get over it. (I’m not sure I’ll ever stop being afraid of Furbys.)

9. A bestie is everything. Whether your kiddo has 1 best friend or 3, this is the most important relationship they have – outside of what they have with you. Foster and encourage them to have good friends.

Be there for them when their BFF inevitably does or says something that hurts their feelings. (It will definitely happen at least 100 times!)

10. They essentially have more than a full-time job. They wake up, go to school, come home, eat a snack, do homework, go to piano practice, eat supper, (hopefully) goof off a bit, take a bath, go to bed and do it all over tomorrow. That’s a lot for anyone.

11. Their bodies are changing. Pimples. Greasy hair. Changing voices. Body odor. Boobies. Periods. It’s hard!

12. They don’t know who they are, but they think they should. Ask a 12-year-old what they want to be when they grow up and they’ll probably have an answer.

Often they’ll say some version of whatever they’re into that day, or what they know you want to hear. They may need to be gently reminded that it’s okay not to have an answer at all.

Do you have a 12-year-old at home?

Any advice for other parents? Have you had challenges that surprised you or even that you felt blind-sided by?

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87 comments on “ATTN Parents: Being a 12-Year-Old Is Hard”

  1. Go WAY out of your way to foster friendships with good kids who have good parents, drive 30 minutes, drop them off, drive home, stay in touch if it’s not too intrusive. If the parents smoke or drink and it’s not you lifestyle but it’s not dangerous, tell your kid you hope they don’t and why but keep it modest.

  2. Find a common interest! Because of my 12 year old I love The Avengers movies. I love that he chooses to go see a new movie with me. I have also taken up rooting for his favorite basketball team. It gives us something to do together and talk about.

    1. Jessica – I agree! My son introduced me to the Avengers and we made it a regular “date” night after his brothers went to bed. We spent time doing something HE likes and it became “our thing”.

  3. Tawny Hawkins

    I don’t know about boys, but with each of my 5 daughters, it happened all at once! One week you’re the best mom in the world; a week later she can’t believe how dumb you are.

  4. I have a 12 year old grandchild who I love so deeply. We have an excellent relationship and I’m hoping I can be there to help navigate this time, like my kids’ grandparents were there for mine.

  5. Yolanda Diederiks

    Mine just turned 13 and this is really a tough year it feels if he really hates me..he doesnt talk much and if he talks its like if he is angry at me …its like where did my sweet little boy go…i try to bear with it because it feels like my heart is broken …but know that i read all about these things he goes through i feel like just hug him….

    1. Age 11-19 was hard for me but just laying on their bed and just listening only was the best way to just let them get it all out. They really poured their hearts out and I learned that I was just expecting them to know how to be that age.

  6. Does your area have a “TeamMates” program? Here in Nebraska, it’s been around for over 30 years and was started by Coach Tom Osborn & members of his football team reaching out to school kids in Lincoln, giving them a friend, a sounding board, a role model, to meet with one day a week. The outreach has grown across the state and is a common mentor/mentee program in most schools now. You are matched to a student with common interests, and you meet with them once a week, always in a school setting, one on one. Talk, play cards, play board games, shoot baskets….this gives kids another adult in their lives to show an interest in them, build them up, help them out, and just LISTEN to them. See if your area has such a program, and if not, why not start one?

  7. My 12 year-old son has tried out for 3 different sports teams for his middle school and has made none, but his friends are making the teams.  He feels left out and sad.  He is a great athlete, but very short and small.  I’m so sad for him and frustrated.  I encourage him to continue trying out and telling him I’m proud of him, but I don’t seem to make it better.  It’s killing me inside.  I don’t know what to say. I guess he just has to navigate disappointment on his own and figure out that it may take more work for him to make the teams.  Any advice?

    1. Martha Mahoney

      I think having the child play for maybe a city league is the way Togo . Not only will he maybe better his skills but he can also build other friendships he could potentially be excited for . Then who knows the following year the coaches at school will realize what they missed out on – good luck !

    2. I’m a girl mom of 5 I have the joy now of raising my 11 yr old grandson he wanted soccer but it wasn’t available so I put him in all other sports he hated them then I did
      Some research I found a soccer clinic for all ages and all abilities he seems to like it ! I have the time to research since not too many grants i know are raising their kids again !

    3. Hi Tim,
      I’m sorry to hear of your sons disappoint but how awesome of him for continuing to tryout. That shows that he is not giving up and you are raising a very strong young man. Look into getting him into an outside league into a sport of his choice. Tryouts are not necessary and every player is guaranteed playing time. He will build his playing skills and confidence not to mention make friends along the way.


    4. I had the same problem until I got into wrestling. I was always too short for the other sports. I excelled and often won my tournaments.

    5. Have him join teams outside of school in the community like YMCA teams or community center teams. Doesn’t have to be all about school sports. Also martial arts is great for kids

    6. have you considered something outside of sports? i understand if his friends are all in sports it’s tough, but maybe look into archery, 4-H has a lot of fantastic options in our area that are not animal related. My daughter is a professional photographer because of 4-H. There’s leadership and so many excellent options which allow them access to fair exhibits, leadership, public speaking and so much more.
      archery can be a good option as well for competition.
      my son did all of these because we homeschooled. he did sports to a certain age and still does as an adult- he’s into disc golf now. that’s another option maybe you could do together. it’s gotten super popular. maybe some of his friends would join him? just some thoughts from things that worked for us to give our kids success and fantastic life skills.

    7. Look into other programs. Not everyone is for sports. Maybe drama class or woodworking. He will figure it out and make more friends.

  8. I’m always saying “It’s not about the ________” to my 12 yr old. It’s the lessons along the way. We talk a lot. Every. Single. Day. It helps her to hear stories of my struggles. It helps to remind her that every single kid in her class feels similar. She feels VERY inadequate. But, there’s a great lesson to being different. Superstars are different. Famous people are different. Saints are different. it’s still so hard to watch them suffer & struggle. Thank God, my kiddo has great faith & loves hugs! She says you need a 20 second hug for it to be like medicine. 🙂

  9. I’m pretty deep into a YouTube project, dealing with this period in people’s lives.  It recounts a crazy incident where I beat up a bully…then his sister almost begged me to be her boyfriend.  It shook me up pretty good, dealing with an unexpected consequence of my “victory”.  Maybe more so than the fight.  It immediately opened my eyes, more than I perhaps was ready for…

  10. I’m 12 and who knows more about 12 year olds then a fellow 12 year old so I am going to correct you on something.
    I’m not exactly sure what to tell your kid if there being bullied but DO NOT I will repeat DO NOT go to the school about being bulling it will make there situation 1,000 times worse the school will give them a temporary punishment and the bullying will only get worse because not only are they whatever caused them to be bullied for in the first place but there also a snitch and they also pissed the bully off so if a kid goes to the school about bullying it will only make there situation worse not better. As someone one who has been bullied before just don’t give in, if they take your stuff don’t try and get it back your not giving them the reaction they want, if they say something to you snap back but with something more clever, and if they call you a nerd a smarty pants in a condescending tone just say thank you, that normally works and get rid of the bullies in a month.

  11. Hey there, I am 17 now for a few months actually and I’ll say being twelve sucked it was hard and really agrivating because one I didn’t have a best friend I had friends but no best friend they all kinda transitioned away from me to spend time in sports, but she I showed a better talent for writing and music they realized that I may not be good at sports but I know how to write a good book and play a good song on the violin. However I also didn’t exactly have a strong stable father figure. As. My birth father left when I was young. It was hard and I kinda turned out for the better y now but it took so much longer I really needed him at 12 and he wasn’t there expecially regarding sexuality that is still a slight struggle for. Me but I think I like mainly girls but I won’t say no to a guy with a lot of compassion amd. And. Kindness to the but I only. Met two of those and there my. Best friends so it. Could be what I. Loom do in a guy best friend. Again idk about that but yeh, then 12 yeh its hard I actually had no one give me the talk I kinda just figured it out and pieces two and two together from when my friends talked about what they experienced and such. But yeh parents keep an eye on your twelve year old it was hard. On me but I plan to learn all I can to be a great dad one day to be there for my own children I’ll be the parent mine never were, my mom never let me out of the house except for school and home foot all games at the highschool. Thanks for. Listening to my ramble and good luck to you 12 year olds out there life will get easier if not harder first, just follow your hearts and you’ll succeed!

  12. 12 is a hard memory for me -on top of all of the regular things I had (and still do decades later) a disorder called trichotillomania.  I pulled out my eyelashes and bros and was regularly punished by my adoptive parents.  When I was almost 13 my dad came in and started whipping his belt on my desk describing the damage he was going to do to me.  So while 12 is hard, please know the pain some endure is way beyond this.  I’m 50 and to this day this goes through my head 50x a day.

    1. My daughter is struggling with this right now I think. She’s started pulling hair from her head though. While she was not adopted, I was and I can understand your hurt and frustration as I too had a dad who would get physical instead of listening to me. I’ve never been physical with my daughter. Always try talking things out. I’m not sure what is bothering her as she just doesn’t bring things to the table to talk and I don’t know how to get her to open up to me. I’ve always thought that letting her know she can talk anytime and always just trying to listen instead of react would work. But she doesn’t know why she is pulling her hair and she doesn’t realize when she’s doing it either. I asked her doctor, big mistake. He came into the room and asked her in front of her siblings, myself and a nurse “why are you pulling out your hair?” I was so upset because I told the nurse and doctor before the appointment that’s not how I wanted it to be dealt with. Apparently they ignored the memo. I believe that appointment made it worse for her 🙁

  13. Also – remember that what looks like playful teasing from an older sibling often feels like bullying to your 12-year-old. Instead of brushing it off or telling the target to get over it, take the opportunity to talk to the older sib about respect, care, and kindness. Older siblings often sort of enjoy exerting power over their younger sibs – especially when they are dealing with their own social-emotional challenges. Yes, it’s normal, but no, it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. Tell your teen that being belligerent or rude to ANYONE is not cool. Ask the older child if she/he would ever speak to a friend in that way. Then remind them that siblings will be their friends long after the cliques and gangs have disappeared. Respect, tolerance, and love all start at home – if we as parents instill them in our kids!

  14. I have a notebook that my daughter can leave me comments so that she doesn’t have to try to articulate in the moment how she’s feeling and if she wants a response she lets me know in the notebook and if she wants it to be a verbal response she lets me though that way or she just wants correspondence and anytime she writes in my notebook she puts it on on my pillow so I can read it at that night and think about how you respond to her that way there’s no response In the Heat of the Moment there’s just open communication it’s worked wonders for us and what stays in the notebook in his ass in the notebook is just between her and I we don’t discuss it with anybody else

  15. Hi. I had a 12 yr old girl (15 now) and soon to be 12 year old boy (11).
    What I’ve always done is encourage them to speak to me. To tell me things that make them feel good and especially things that don’t feel right. They speak their minds, even if it means they don’t agree with us as parents (must be done respectfully). This is how I was reared and today still my mom (single parent) is my best friend. I can speak to my mom about anything… Well maybe keep the sex talk stuff for my other best friend who is the same age as me .
    I can see that my son is going to be a challenge. It’s very confusing having an older sister that can do stuff he can’t… Very normal if there is a 2+ gap as you reach you teen years. What I love is that I often hear my daughter telling my son to always be honest with mom. She’ll add that yes mom may be dissappointed but if mom found out you lied and what the lie was about, then not only will mom be dissappointed but she will be angry too and that is when you get grounded!!
    I hope that I’m on the right path being, what I consider, a progressive millennium parent. All we need to really do is to make them realise home is where their safety net is and even tho the world may judge and redicule them, there is a place at home where we accept each other because we love each other unconditionally ❤️

  16. My best advice…find their time to talk… I have two different experiences with two different 12 yr olds.   The oldest chose the car… he would talk about all of his hopes and fears… as long as it was just the two of us heading somewhere in the car… nothing was off limits… we still have our best talks when he is driving home from work….

    My youngest is currently 12… and he will grunt and is a one word assassin right up until he is relaxed and ready for bed…and then he talks and talks and talks… some nights we let him ramble for 30 mins or so and call it a night.. on the days when he is wrestling with things that make him mad, sad, or anxious we(his dad or I) settle in and snuggle and let him talk until he falls asleep… it happened frequently as he entered middle school les often now… but some nights he walks in and just says he needs to snuggle… 

    Sometimes it means we need an extra cup of coffee to start the day but It’s a small price to pay to stay connected to my son!

  17. I have a 13 year old and she loves to talk back when I tell her something like give me your phone its time for bed she’ll come back and say why she has to give me her phone at night for one she will stay up all night on the phone and don’t get enough sleep she says I don’t spin no time with her when u talking to me like u do and don’t know how to listen I don’t and she will look at you and lie when you know she lieing she says I m not lieing I need some advice

  18. Hard raising a child of your child who passed away…she was only 34 and my granddaughter was 12 at the time now she’s recently turned 14 and still hard at that age also.

  19. Margie Danahy

    I raised 4 boys.  I found that when they are upset about something, I would tell them that I can see that they are upset and I didn’t want to pry, however, when they are ready to talk about it, I’ll be here.  
    It took the pressure off of both of us.  I wasn’t following them around asking questions and it allowed them to come to me without anxiety.  It might take a couple of days, but they usually sought me out. 

  20. Tell them stories of when you were younger that may be a little embarrassing. It makes you relatable and could start a dialogue. Conversations are what keep me informed and armed to help them through whatever they are going through.

  21. I may not be there yet with my daughter, but I think of these comments are foolish, “give them space, don’t hover” sounds to me some of you are trying to be their friend, more than their parents. And if any parent on here thinks because you have always been honest with your kid, that they are being honest with you…..that’s funny! I look at these 20 somethings now and I am starting to understand why they have no life skills, and only care about how they feel and their safe place in the world. The world is not like that why do you as parents still want to teach your kids that. Their feelings don’t matter, to a boss when they need someone to work that overtime….or if you brake something the boss ain’t going to give you space to calm down, and if they do, it’s a pink slip. 12 is when you should start to teach them about how much the world will hurt you if they don’t PAY ATTENTION! And that they need to learn how to deal with emotional shit now, because in just a few years nobody will care! 

    1. I think the basis of this article is being your child’s safe place from a world where ALL of what you’ve said is true. The harsh reality is waiting for them as adults, but they need to know that home and Mum and/or Dad are there for them to work through everything the world is throwing at them – I really don’t think they need us as parents being the harsh reality as well. I’ve raised 2 older children and now on my 3rd who is currently 12. Each is different, though well aware how tough being an adult in this world can be – BUT they need to know that IM there for them, regardless. 

    2. I agree. Kids these days have no respect. It starts at home. Parents need to wake up and be parents first then later be friends. I always talked to my daughter, but also let her go through what life throws at her so she will know how to deal with everything that is out there these days. She is 23 and is now my best friend. If anything were to happen to me I know she will do fine in this nasty negative world. I didn’t get her a phone because everyone had one. Elementary kids don’t need a phone. Parents use them as babysitters instead of taking time  out to play family games or just playing outside with other kids. Life was so much better back in the day when you can spank your child . Todays kids have no respect for anyone not even their selves. Parents need to blame yourselves.

  22. From 1 to 20, kids are born capable of learning and finding themselves, many living in as much pressure at home as away from home so they turn outside and away from parents seeking acceptance, security, shelter, and what they define as love. No child wants a constant bombardment of your ideas, your ways, your thoughts, your dreams! Every child wants freedom to be themselves whatever that may be without the guilt and stress of measuring up to your expectations or sacrificing all their desires for yours. There is a tremendous need to stop trying to create mini-mes, reliving your life through your children. They dont want to be you! They dont need to bare the burdens and weight of
    Your adult choices! They need guidance but with room to make mistakes without ridicule and building resentment and rebellion from your perceptions. Allow them to see life and you are not perfect! To be loved and accepted because of their uniqueness and who they are! Give them clear footsteps to follow and clean examples to live by. Instill hope, faith, love through Jesus! Stop alianating them from family, friends, church, school, childhood opportunities with your jealousy, idiocracy, instabilities, and personal dysfunction! It’s not fair to them! Be the adult, be the family, remembering that you are the parent, you are not their whole, and your title does not define your identity in their lives! Your actions define your love, your place in their hearts, even their thoughts, and will never determine their own identities! Let them be the child, enjoy childhood without the responsibility of being more than you! Often your expectations are too high, that creates failure and insecurity with low self-estem! Learn to listen and see what they are often too afraid to speak. Create God loving children instead of parent fearing children! After all it’s a parents duty to love, encourage, protect, and sacrifice for their children! Not the other way around! If your child sees or feels differently they will seek what they need elsewhere! Love outgives ones self with open mind, open ears, and an open heart! Gods most precious gift is a child!

  23. I am a single Mom with CPTSD raising a 12yr old girl and a 11yr old boy both with CPTSD. I was not prepared for this age nor am I prepared to go through it alone times 2. I catch myself spending hrs on pinterest looking for advice to help understand my 2 sweet bold ever emotionally changing children.
    I am in my early 30s and being a 12yr old is nothing like it was when I was 12, due to technology.
    At a very young age I told my children on a regular basis they can talk to me about anything. It started out as I broke a toy, then I said a bad word, to my friends didn’t share, and now my children are very open with asking me questions about anything and EVERYTHING, to the point that can make me blush. I would rather them ask then not and try to figure it out for themselves.

    Starting at age 3 once a month I sit down with each of my children separately and say: now is your opportunity to tell me or ask me anything you want even if its embarrassing, gross, weird, etc. I wont get mad, you wont get in trouble we will talk it through and work it out together. TRUTH ~ HONESTY ~ LOVE ~ FAMILY

  24. When we were young the bullying stopped when we got home…. home was our safe haven.  With 24 hour tech access the bullying , and even the simple embarrassing things that happen that day follow today’s children non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

  25. Thank you, this is a great article. Adults have no clue the amount of pressure teens are under now, especially with the constant pull and commentary on Social Media. The majority of people over 20 have no way to relate to this level of unrelenting pressure.

  26. I just moved away from my grandson who will be 12 in 2 months. I miss him so much and I worry for him everyday. He doesn’t have any great friends and the ones he does have can be a bit bullying at times. His Mom is trying her best but he’s alone after school for a bit and it makes me so sad. He struggles with being an empathy and tends to lash out when his feelings are hurt. He has discovered that he has musical talent, do I have hopes that can get him thru the tough years ahead.

  27. I’m on my 3rd 12 year old child. I thought I was ready since I’ve already mothered  2 other children changing . I was wrong. My sweet little boy turned into an angsty 12 year old over night, or so it seems and it totally caught me off guard. Thank you for this insightful post!  It helps to know I’m not alone! 

  28. My daughter began a 8 year depression when she was 12. She was our first child and only girl. I didn’t realize she was depressed more than any other pre-teen girl.  She is still fighting, but is now opening up about how she felt at 12.  I think we need to be more alert with mental illness as our babies hit puberty. It may not all be a normal way to feel. She was 16 before we realized she needed professional help. 

  29. It’s important to talk to them about the same sex too. I have always told my daughter that you love who you love, regardless of gender. I have taught her to be accepting of everyone, regardless of how they identify, qualities that I believe will serve her well in life.

  30. My son was 12 and a half when my husband, his dad passed away. Jake is now 33 and has struggled with many issues from alcohol abuse to drugs. I know I can’t blame his dad passing as the only source but I think it was a big contender. He had a great hands on dad that was wonderful. He has been clean for over a year, but still lives in sober living and looking for a job. Presently is on felony probation. I agree 12 is a pivotal year in a boys life.

  31. Re: #2. For many kids learning about the opposite sex won’t be the issue. For kids experiencing same sex attraction, this period in their life can be extra extra hard. Make sure they know from a young age that gay and trans people exist and that no matter who they are and who they love, they are perfect just the way they are and that you love them no matter what. 

    1. Thank you for this. We are going through this now and there aren’t many people who can relate.

    2. So true and very important to stress.  I saw this post on my sister’s FB page and said there should be a 2b.  Learning about the same sex is tricky too.   This is about the age boys who are interested in sports go that direction and friendships change if the other boy isn’t interested.  I’m not saying all gay boys are not interested in sports as I have friends who are gay professional (even super bowl player) athletes.  I’m saying their interest can change at this point of life and it can be stressful working through the changes. 

  32. love them! Respect them as people. My 12 year old daughter absolutely hates when someone says “ you are 12, what do you know?”  basically making her feel less than, but she deserves an opinion and I try to always remember that. I love her more than life but it is hard and I try to remember it’s not just me that things are hard for . ❤️

  33. When I am more than frustrated with my 12 year old and I call my Mom for advice she always says “you just have to love him through it”. It’s a powerful statement. 

  34. Kerri Engebrecht

    My son was diagnosed with a rare life-threatening chronic illness at 12 – and I try to explain to others how that has impacted him in so many ways. Thank you for writing something that I can share that explains from someone other than his mom what I have been saying.

  35. Carrie Schmidt

    Yes, I have a 12 year old son! For this exact reason, I have launched the YOUTH VISION MOVEMENT which is taking the fundamental life skill of success to our Middle Schoolers.

    It take a village, a community of parents, youth leaders and people who truly care to empower our Teens now a days…we live in such a different ERA where everything we are dealing with as parents and kids has been dealt with before such as social media, internet access, having information at our fingertips and real time information.

    At any rate, it is so critical to catch our youth when they are at this very critical age and teach them Confidence / Positive Self Image, Communication Skills, Conflict Resolution, the Power of Perception, etc. Let’s make this movement count, let’s connect and collaborate to empower our youth to reach their greatest potential and spread more light in this world that can seem to be so dark sometimes.

    God Bless!

  36. Show interest in what they are telling you about, even if it is about a Tik Tok video or a game they played, if you listen and engage with them, eventually they will talk to you about the big stuff too. Let them listen to their music in the car (drives me nuts) but I ask her questions about the artist and lyrics and the conversation just grows. My daughter is 12 and moody, hormonal and angry, but I just hug her often and give her her space when she needs it. She is really a great kid. Middle School is hard and she has dealt with bullying since 5th grade because of her acne, but I just build her up each day to let her know, we love her and she is a great person on the inside and eventually the world will see her beauty on the outside like I do. Then I tell her, you are going through puberty early, and when your face clears up everyone else will have zits, makes her laugh every time. Cherish them!! She pushes my buttons, and I yell more than I like, but wouldn’t change a thing.

  37. My daughter is 15 now. Always acknowledge their feelings, even if you don’t understand them or agree with them. Everyone is entitled to feel how they feel. Listen to them when they come to you about an issue even if you think it is a silly or minor issue. Whatever they come to you with, it’s important. Listen when they just want to chat about their day, video games, music, their friends, their teachers. If you listen to the every day things with enthusiasm, they are much more likely to bring the bigger stuff to you as well. Also, sometimes they just need space, even from their parents. If they don’t want to talk, are too upset to talk, are too angry to talk, let them go and have some time to themselves. Bring up the situation again when everyone is calm and ready. You can’t push them into talking to you without causing more harm than good.

  38. Listen to them when they talk to you about the little things (like video games)… because that’s what they care about. And soon there will be big things and they will know you’ll be there to listen. 

  39. Thanks for this article!  It is a good reminder as my 11 year old starts middle school next year.  It is hard as a parent to slow down and really listen without any distractions.  I find that when I am able to do this, our relationship is much better.  If I am too busy we struggle and are not as close for sure.  

  40. I’ve raised one, now raising another. I always kept the lines of communication open, always told the truth even when it made me cringe, and never hovered.

    We’ve already made a deal that he’s never to be afraid or ashamed to come to us; no matter the reason.

  41. I’m starting a jr hi teaching job. I love this age of kids but have never been a Mom. This story and all these comments are AWESOME. 

    1. Kathleen Doherty

      I’ve taught 6-8 for years, it’s an interesting age. Very different though for parents. I must admit that my 3 ‘kids’ now in their 30’s, had fairly easy middle school years, high school was more up and down.

      I do remember one night as a 7th grader, (13), my parents took my brother and I out to dinner after my dance class at school. We were just eating dessert when the boy I was crushing on walked in, with HIS parents. I freaked at being seen with my family instead of friends. So I slipped under the table. Brilliant. Not one second of thinking ahead. My family done, his just walked in. That IS middle school students.

  42. The hardest thing is our 12 year old son had lots of interests and we could easily entertain and engage him. This year, we have not been able to do this at all. What can I do to continue to have fun with him? I realize he’s growing up, and being his mom has always been enjoyable. This year, I can’t even figure out how to be his mom.

    1. This might sound crazy, but my son(now 20), when we went through this awkward phase where he didn’t want to tell me anything, we started conversing over text messages. He just felt more comfortable not having to be in the same room. Maybe so he couldn’t see my initial reaction. But it worked and we eventually moved on to having our convos face to face. Good luck! His little brother is 11 going on 12 and I’m back to the drawing board in communication with him.

    2. My daughter is also 20 and she was much more open and expressive when we discussed challenging topics via text, as well. I think the idea of not having to be in front of me or hear her own voice speak the hard questions was a safe way to express herself to me. I also found that we had deeper conversations more successfully in the car; again, not having to look anyone in the face and having me be occupied with driving helped her feel more comfortable talking about tough or embarrassing topics. My son is now 12 so we will see how these techniques work for our conversations…

  43. Have fun with them and be interested in what they are interested in. Even if you aren’t really interested, ask them questions about it.

  44. My advice… when angry try and stay calm. Let the first wave of anger pass and then talk sincerely from your heart, then kiss and make up followed by perhaps something fun to share. I find that a good laugh between you and your kid takes away the deepest grudge, calms the mind. A much needed bonding after the storm. And there are many to come when children become teenagers…)

    1. Thank you for this article! This and the comment section really speaks to me. I’m a mother of four and my oldest is 12. It’s so frustrating because the world is a different place than it was when I was 12, I feel like he is the boy version of me when I was 14 or 15. I always wonder ‘am I alone in this? Is this normal behavior?’ I so desprately want my buddy back, I want to be the cool mom that he can come to with anything and everything. I’m terrible with setting boundries, if I give an inch he takes a mile and I usually give in. I’m so afraid of him hating me.

  45. There are so many truths in here! I have a (almost) 12 year old and I found myself nodding and getting teary eyed while reading this. Thank you for sharing.

  46. I am now a grandma of 6, yet still remember like it was yesterday how painful being 12 was. One minute your parents were mad at you for wanting the same privilages as your older siblings, telling you that you were too young for that, and the next minute they said ‘you should know better- you’re not a baby’ about something else. I felt I was always wrong, no matter what I said, did, or chose, and it was so embarrassing that I couldn’t get my 5’6″ body to behave at all, when I believed other girls were more dainty, petite, and graceful. It took me years to realize the girls I admired as perfect felt just as awkward and uncomfortable in their skin as I did- some were just better at hiding that, or could ‘fake it ’til you make it’ better than I could!!

    1. Omg you hit it spot on. My soon to be 13 year old is curvier than most her peers and she hates it. I said those same things to her about this.
      You’re amazing!!!

  47. At this age teens are less likely to approach the parents when they have things on their mind because they are not sure how to express themselves. They are usually wait for parents to pursue them.

    1. I have an almost 12 granddaughter who has been living with me since she was 5. Her dad is an addict and her mom is bipolar. I worry that she will inherit the bipolar gene as it runs in her mom’s family. I worry that she might become an addict because addiction runs in our family. It seems like overnight she changed from a loving, caring, and helpful human being into an angry, selfish, unresponsive version of a person I do not recognize. I know her parents have disappointed her and that has definitely played a role in her angry behaviors, but I believe that starting middle school and trying to fit in with the other middle schoolers plays a big part in how she is feeling and behaving. She is introverted, extremely intelligent, and moody. I find myself at a loss as to how to deal with this young girl whom I don’t even recognize anymore. I feel as though the bond we once shared has been broken and I want it back. I’m just trying to be patient and I continue to love her unconditionally in the hopes that this phase she is going through will run its coarse. It’s hard for me to understand how she feels sometimes as I am extremely extroverted and wear my heart on my sleeve. I know one day we will connect again, but until that day I hope I can be patient, kind, and understanding because being a 12 yr old and upcoming teenager is hard and stressful in a world where technology, social media, and bullying is so prevalent in the world. So I wait, I wonder, I worry about her future in a society where people can sonetimes be so unkind. I just know we will eventually connect and our relationship will be less tense and awkward, but until then just know that I love you.

    2. Keep up the good work Grandma!   You are fighting the good fight.  Unconditional love even at the hardest times.  

    3. Don’t give up on her. Don’t push her out, get her help. Give her the tools to survive and be strong. She will fight you but she needs you.

  48. Never lie to your kids. No matter how hard the conversation or question is, do not lie to them. I have had several situations over the years where I was able to say to my daughter “have I ever lied to you” and she knew I hadn’t. She knows I will always be truthful, no matter how hard the subject is to discuss.

    1. Great comment. I have told my kids to always tell the truth to me. I use this example, “Someday you’re going to need me to believe you, when maybe a teacher or another student is saying something you did, that you didn’t do. If you always tell me the truth, then I can always stand up for you knowing you’ve always been truthful with me.”

  49. I read somewhere ‘when they deserve your love the least is when they need it the most’.  I remind myself of that when my kids are testing me and try always to respond with love. 

    1. Listen when they talk. Try not to ask many questions. Tell them you love them.

    2. yes yes yes to this!!! I find the more he pushes me away the more he actually wants me present!!!!

    3. Momsubstitute

      I have a 12 year old daughter and we are very close. I substitute teach and when I’ve been at her school the kids make comments such as “I can’t believe you talk to your mom”. It is bittersweet. I don’t have a magical thing I did. I can’t even say when she goes through the teens she will still want to talk to me (I hope she does). I think the main thing is I listen. I listen to the serious stuff, I listen to the silly stuff, and I listen to the ever so long drama filled explanation about herself and peers. I also have a 13 year old son. He is much quieter. He is closer to my husband so speaks more openly with him than myself. Which is OKAY! As long as our children know there is a safe loving adult that they can turn to. I’d rather that adult be myself or my husband. But all children don’t have that luxury. So just being a safe loving adult is necessary to make sure all our children make it through this and all stages of life.

    4. I love this so much. I have a newborn, 2 year old, and 4 year old, and my 4 year old is acting out to assure her fair share of attention. I will definitely remember these wise words. It takes a village! 

  50. My just turned 13 grandson was being challenged by his parents cause he was getting a bit lazy about his chores. He told them they just dont appreciate how much energy its taking him to do that all the thinking he is doing these days. Had to laugh(not in front of him!) but really, they are truly analyzing EVERYTHING at this age. It has to be exhausting!!

    1. My boys are 12 now… I just try to do dinner at the table every night! I wanna know everything going on. When I know I was wrong I also apologize to them! And when all else fails we hug it out! They will never think they’re alone in my household!

  51. I have raised 4 . Currently at age 12 with the 5th. It is definitely a hard age. I really have no advice. They were all completely different at 12. I raised 2 boys and 2 girls. Neither of the boys acted the same at 12 and neither did the girls. I have one more child after this to get through the awkward preteen years. Good luck to all the other moms & dad’s who are just trying to survive raising kids to upstanding adults.