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How to Know When to Give Your Child Space

Tween Space

Forget the post-college years as a time when people seek to find themselves. Tweenhood, when a child is between the ages of 8 and 12, is when real self-discovery begins. Tweens are set on exploring who they are and who they'll grow up to be. And as youngsters seek greater independence, they naturally desire to spend more time away from mom and dad. Here's where it can get a little scary: Space no longer just implies alone time for your child in his or her room; it may mean letting him or her do things outside your supervision.

Here are some pointers parents can use in learning to balance freedom and boundaries for tweens:

1. Understand that it's natural for your child to want to start differentiating him or herself from you. This may mean your tween finds you embarrassing to be around in public. It may feel hurtful, but it's completely normal.

2. Find casual ways to communicate with your tween. You may find that your child isn't as eager to have conversations with you as he or she once was. However, you don't want to give your kid so much space that you're no longer in the loop. To keep communications open, try not to make talking a big deal. Bring discussion topics up casually while shopping or playing video games with your child.

3. Put your child through test runs. Before you start letting your tween out of the house with his or her friends, start testing whether he or she is ready to be out in the world without you. One way to do this is to wait in the parking lot while your child is allowed to go purchase some items at the grocery store [source: Estes].

4. Put safety first. Just because your tween is ready to burst into the world headfirst doesn't mean he or she is an adult. Tweens are still children, and they're still at risk out in the world. Make sure you always know where your child is and who he or she is with. Also be certain your tween is aware of basic safety rules, like not talking to strangers and knowing who to contact for help during an emergency.

Children in the next age group seem to want nothing but space. Learn more on the next page.