Michelle Mitchell is a legend in all things tween. I've heard her speak in person, online and now also in The Calm Connected Tweens and Teens Summit. Here's my summary...

The tween years are NOT the new teen years. They are entirely different. Please don't force kids to grow up prematurely. Nurture this unique stage and your relationship with them as tweens.

Michelle likes to consider the tween stage as an 'apprenticeship' for friendships that lie ahead in the teenage years. They are changing in every facet of their lives - physically, emotionally, sexually, cognitively and socially. By encouraging unstructured and unsupervised play, tweens are building a toolbox of skills to help them into teen years and adulthood.

A key part of them building this toolbox is allowing them a safe space at home to unpack and process the things they are learning and the skills they are developing. This needs to be judgement free and parents (even though it's hard) may need to step back!

Tension in tween friendships (and teens) is normal. That's not so say it should be dismissed (and there are always red flags to look out for) or that tweens should accept bad behaviour from their friends. A great question to ask a tween if they are unpacking a friendship issue is 'Does this friendship just need some space right now, or does it need fixing and a conversation?'

It is up to us as adults to help our tweens develop skills to navigate friendship issues and to role model how to be a great friend. While it may feel natural to jump in, call the parent or the school and to 'fix' things for your tween, try to encourage them to solve issues along the way. You'll all be better for it!