“My pre teenager child always feels left out. The way she tries to belong in the ‘in’ group is pathetic. It makes me cry”- my cousin complains.
Sarah , her twelve year old daughter needs to wear the same brand of clothes , find the exact black shade of nail polish that the popular girl in her school wears. It is very important to her what other people, especially her cohorts are thinking about her.
Alex , her eight year old brother, the other day asked me – “Is he a good guy or the bad one?” as we were watching a T.V.show together. I asked him -“Can’t he be a mix of some good and some bad?” He looked at me as if I came from the world of E.T.
Kids, in their tween years (8-12) are in the concrete stage. The world is either black or white. Nothing in between can exist. Either it must be day or night. There is no twilight zone in the tween life time.
They have graduated from the egocentric period, which is apparent in their four year old sister, Sasha. Sasha, independently dressed with one blue sock on one feet and a pink one on the other, with five Hello Kitty clips on her uncombed hair and proudly plays with a bunch of preschoolers in the sand box. No one seems to bother or criticize her.
But her tween siblings are different. They are very conscious of what other people may think and feel or judge. They can be painfully critical on themselves too.
“What can I do?” – begs my cousin.
Well, the stage will pass and the crisis will fade with time. In the mean time let me help you with what specialist in this area think and what research indicates. The following guidance may help.
Do things together: Cooking, gardening, fixing things together give a chance to work with the hands and open up discussions about the abstract world. The children at this phase need to work with concrete things to get a sense of the world around them and build their own confidence.
Expose to extra curricular activity: Games and sports that involve team playing, like dancing, playing an instrument, any thing that the child finds interesting will open up another dimension of the world- the abstract aspect through concrete experiences.
Involve in voluntary activities: Girl’s scout, Big Brothers, Soup Kitchen, Bake sales, all these may take the focus away from being too self critical and superficial. It makes you feel good inside when you volunteer for others. It exposes to other groups and to a larger world.
Share: Share your passion, hobby, books. Read together, watch movies or shows together. Find out things that interest you both. These may open up conversations and discussion about values, imagination and the abstract nature of the world.
The sense of belonging is a natural, innate need of every human being. When your pre teenager child finds a world out there, that is caring, bigger than her known peer group, she’ll be more hopeful.
With time the maturity will come and she’ll be confident to walk with her head up, not so concerned if the popular group approves her or not.
Your pre teenager awkward child will find a much comfortable place to belong and bloom with self confidence.