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 (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?