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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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I am a mom of 3 awesome boys that love to get crafty with me in the kitchen. Our blog is full of all sorts creative food ideas for the Holidays, Party Ideas, Free Printables, Featured DIY Ideas, Recipes, & Kids Craft Ideas! Read more...

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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 . ❤️

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. 

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. 

UGH ALL OF THIS! I feel every bit of his growing up and luckily he is still a baby at heart.

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.

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.

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. 

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! 

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

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!

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! 

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. 

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.

Awesome advice!!!!

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. 

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

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!

BOOBIES? This is why teenage girls cringe…..

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 ❤️

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

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!

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.

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 🙁

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.

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…


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