How can I get my tween to be active? 

How can I get my tween to be active? 

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One minute you’re cradling them in your arms, and the next they are suddenly approaching the ‘tween’ years and their arms are as long as yours.  

 

A tween is a child aged around 9 – 12 years old who is ‘in-between’ childhood and adolescence. Children at this age start to change in many ways – physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. Their interests change and they often prefer the company of their friends to that of their parents. A decline in physical activity is also common around this age, and gets worse as they reach the teenage years.  

 

So, what can we do about it?  

 

If you haven’t reached the tween years yet, then the best thing you can do is to set up healthy routines and schedules which will provide a structure for the future. This could include:  

  • Ensuring a good balance of school, family time and time with friends 

  • Setting expectations around screentime and homework 

  • Making sure your child has healthy sleep routines 

  • Building physical activity into daily life 

None of this will prevent your tweenager from changing, but it will give you a sound footing to fall back on when they do.  

 

Don’t worry, though, if you have a tween on your hands who has already lost interest in physical activity. There is plenty you can do to help.  

 

Start by talking: 

Let your child know that you want them to be active for their own health and wellbeing. Ask them what activities they like doing? Is there anything new they would like to try? Or something they used to like that they could go back to? Do they understand the importance of having an active lifestyle? Are there certain things stopping them from wanting to be active?  

 

Help remove barriers around body confidence: 

Feeling comfortable is key to enjoying physical activity and when your body is changing this is even more important. Find clothes they want to wear. Chat about hygiene and make sure your child knows how and when to use deodorant. If your child is starting to have periods help them to understand that they can still enjoy being active – but accept that sometimes they won’t want to.  

 

Find activities they actually want to do:  

Find out what activities are available in your area, either through extra-curricular clubs or on a more informal basis. Think outside the box: it could be football or netball, but it could also be shot put or trampolining. Not every tween will want to do formal sports, and that’s fine. Perhaps they would prefer walking to the shops and back, mucking around at a skatepark, or earning some pocket money by hoovering. You can also make a trip to the park or a bike ride more appealing by letting your child invite a friend.  

 

Build physical activity into everyday life:  

Use active transportation – even if that’s just walking to the bus stop and taking a bus rather than driving places. Limit screentime so that they have to find something else to do. When you’re planning some family time, choose a trip to the beach over a meal in a café, and a visit to a bowling alley rather than the cinema. Talk about how you feel after exercising: yes you might be a bit sweaty or tired, but you might also feel happy, more positive and energised. Try to get your tween to notice these feelings. 

 

Set an example:  

Cast your mind back to when you were their age. Most of us can recall being embarrassed by the very existence of parents, and doing the opposite of what they wanted just on principle. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of resistance, don’t force it. Continue to live an active life yourself. Show that it is normal to move your body and that doing so can be fun. Bide your time and one day they’ll (probably) announce that you inspired them to get active.  

 

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