How to keep your tween talking

Suddenly, your growing kid has gone silent. Here's how to connect with them.

A family.
(Image credit: Illustrated | mgordeev/iStock, ilyaliren/iStock, Tatomm/iStock, omyos/iStock)

A lot happens to children between the ages of 9 and 12. During this weird, in-limbo stage of life, they're definitely not little kids any more (just ask them!), but they're teetering on the brink of adolescence, and they're still a long way from being adults. Alongside all the obvious physical transformations they're going through — it can seem as if they morph into completely different beings overnight — come some pretty major internal changes. Often, one of the hardest for parents to deal with is an abrupt lack of communication from their tween. Suddenly, your chatty, happy kid wakes up with the inability to offer anything more than a grunt in your general direction.

This can be tough, but it's totally normal, says Christine Schneider, a marriage and family therapist and co-founder of Integrative Mind Institute. And your kid is likely to be just as thrown as you are by the changes, even if they act like they couldn't care less. "The pre-teen phase is confusing for both kids and parents," Schneider says. "Puberty typically sets off a process of developmentally appropriate tasks, such as having peers become as important as parents for guidance/emotional support, and developing a sense of identity separate from parents."

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Claire Gillespie

Claire Gillespie is a freelance writer with bylines on Health, SELF, Refinery29, Glamour, The Washington Post, and many more. She likes to write about parenting, health, and culture. She lives in Scotland with her husband and six kids, where she uses every (rare) spare moment to work on her novel.