Social / Emotional

Making Tough Decisions

Just like these are the years to have conversations about staying safe online, it’s also the time to talk about staying safe in the world. Your tween needs to build the skills to navigate peer pressure, changing social dynamics, and the difficult choices they’ll be presented with as they get older.

You know your child best: They might be ready to talk about Big Stuff like drugs, alcohol, and sexual activity in sixth or seventh grade, or they might not be there yet. But regardless, they’ll get there eventually, so now is the time to start laying the groundwork for safe and open conversations about how they’ll navigate tricky situations—and make smart decisions—when you’re not there to help. Even if some of this stuff isn’t relevant for your kid until they’re older, you have an opportunity now to get the conversations moving.

Your tween might be ready (or almost ready) to talk about things like:

1

How to be a good friend. You’ve probably already been having versions of this conversation for years, since children start thinking about friendship dynamics as early as preschool. But the landscape is shifting now. Cliques are forming (or have already formed) and kids naturally start to sift themselves into groups. Unfortunately, that often means that some kids start to get labeled as “cool” (or not), self-esteem can take a hit, and friendships can become complicated along the way. Now is a good time to keep an eye on your child’s social circle—who’s part of it and how it’s changed. You’ll also want to listen to how your child talks about their friends and classmates, and probe if you hear clues that make you think there’s excluding or bullying happening.

2

Consent, consent, consent. If you’re not already having an ongoing conversation about consent, now is a great time to start. Between physical and hormonal changes, shifting social dynamics, and more independence, tweens are going to find themselves increasingly in situations where they have to make choices about their actions and their bodies. They’ll need to know not just that they can say no to things they don’t want to do, but also how to say no. (Role playing at home might feel awkward, but it’s not a bad idea!) And remember that this works both ways: Your child might feel comfortable with an activity or situation that a peer says no to, so they need to understand how to respect others’ choices, too.

3

How to get out of situations they don’t want to be in. As your child starts going to more independent social events like parties and dances, do they know how to extricate themselves if they aren’t having fun or don’t feel safe? Make a plan together for what they should do if they need to leave a situation quickly: how they’ll reach you, who else they can call if you’re not available, and how to use and pay for an Uber or taxi in case of an emergency.