Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons

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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17 comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!!

  3. 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. 

  4. 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.

    • 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.”

  5. 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.

  6. 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!!

  7. 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.

  8. 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…)

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    • 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.

  11. 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. 

  12. 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.

  13. 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.  

  14. 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.