Your son won’t technically be a teenager for another year, but 12 is when the big transitions begin. That's why kids this age are called preteens or tweens. His world is getting bigger on every level: physical, mental, emotional and social. Buckle up, things may get bumpy.
Who Said That?
Why is a man’s voice coming out of your baby’s mouth? Because his voice is deepening. He’ll also start growing facial and pubic hair. At 12, puberty could be in full swing. For some, it starts earlier. For others, it’s a bit later. It's a time for deodorant, growth spurts and emerging sexual awareness. Everyone is different, so don’t be worried if your son is more or less mature at this age.
Thanks to puberty, he’s paying more attention to his body. He’s more focused on how he looks and what he’s wearing. He may express an interest in joining a gym or start exercising in his room.
He’s also concerned about what other kids think of him. This may change the way he acts and expresses affection toward you, especially in front of his friends.
His emotions seesaw. He often goes from happy to sad, kind to rude, feeling smart to feeling short on confidence. He may also feel more stress because schoolwork is getting challenging.
That’s because his brain is able to handle more complex thinking now. This goes hand in hand with his expanding vocabulary. He’s better at putting what he’s feeling into words, which you might see as a blessing and a curse. He’s questioning his family’s values and seeing the line between right and wrong through new eyes.
This can be a confusing age for both of you, because he's starting to look and act more like an adult, but he doesn't have the same life experience and decision-making skills. Sometimes you may both need a reminder that he's still a 12-year-old kid.
His social life is more important to him. This is when peer pressure starts to sneak in. At 12, it's important to him to belong, which means more independence from you and more dependence on his friends. Monitor his media use closely: Many boys play online video games, so review privacy settings and ensure personal information is not shared with other gamers.
Though it may not seem like it, your love and acceptance are still important to him. He may be pouty and self-centered, which can lead to lots of reactions instead of positive actions from both of you. But he needs to know you see him for who he is, and that you're there to support him as he figures out who he's becoming.
Talk. Ask questions. Listen. Be honest. This is especially important when it comes to discussions around tobacco, drinking, drugs and sex. What does he know about them? What does he think about them? Without blame or shame, share the dangers and consequences of each plus your thoughts and feelings.
- Stay present in his life; don't fade into the background because that's what you think he wants.
- If he's showing interest in a new sport or hobby, encourage him.
- If he's putting in effort at home or school, offer up some praise.
- Be clear about your boundaries when it comes to grades, chores and screen time.
- When there's conflict, model healthy arguments by respecting his feelings and opinions.
Remember: Puberty can be a time of massive mood swings. It's normal for him to feel sad, but only for a short while. Depression lasts longer and plays out in multiple ways, including eating disorders and drug use.
Keep your finger on the pulse of what's happening at school. Meet his friends. Talk with their parents. Stay in the loop on his grades and performance before the report card comes home. Poor grades can mean anything from a learning disability and behavior issues to a simple visit to the eye doctor for some new glasses or contacts.
And though it may feel like learning a foreign language, it’s important to understand and monitor the forms of social media your son is using. Talk to him about the way he presents himself online and the effect it can have on college applications, future employment and more. Remind him that once an image or content is shared it can be used by the recipient in many different ways.