Let me describe a "tween" for you. That stressful age between childhood and teenage-dom: Angry all the time. Not fitting in. Wanting to grow up fast, but wishing they didn't have to grow up at all. Well, here are some tips on how to survive the changes. They're from Linda Perlstein, who spent a year observing students for her book "Not Much, Just Chillin': The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers." First, for the parents:

  • Tip #1: Don't freak out when your kid opens up. In other words, practice a calm response for when your 12-year-old says she has a boyfriend. If you snap, "You're not allowed to date!" she may never talk to you about boys again. Instead, try asking what he's like, and discuss what it means to have a boyfriend.
  • Tip #2: Don't take it personally when they say "I hate you!" You kids don't really hate you. They hate that they can't be as grown up as they want to be at that very moment. Remember, the terrible 12s are just as common and natural as the terrible twos. They're just not as cute.
  • And Tip #3: Don't belittle what they're going through. To you, it may be "just a crush" or "just an invite to a birthday party", But to your child, it's huge. In their eyes, it could make or break them. Now, here's some advice for the "tweens":
  • Tip #1: Choose your friends carefully. Pick people who make you feel good and help you be a better person. If a "friend" constantly makes you feel bad, why hang out with them?
  • Tip #2: Geeks win in the end. In other words, being popular in middle school doesn't guarantee a better life, later. The book's author notes that the most interesting adults at her middle school reunion were those who used to be geeky.
  • And finally, Tip #3: Give you parents more credit. Don't assume they can't handle it if you tell them about something that's bugging you. In fact, they probably experienced something similar to what you're going through. And contrary to what you might think, they're only trying to love you, protect you and raise you to the best of their ability.

If you'd like to go further, the book is Not Much, Just Chillin': The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers by Linda Perlstein.