As children progress into preadolescence, parents must establish rules that balance preteens' increasing need for independence with guidelines that will safely aid them along the journey toward adulthood. Dr. Laura Markham, creator of Aha! Parenting, says that when setting boundaries and rules of conduct for your preteen, you should first establish a solid, open relationship built on trust and mutual respect. As you set rules and guidelines, show your preteen that you acknowledge her perspective in order to increase the likelihood of compliance.
It's common for parents to expect their preteen to continue to do their household chores, such as dishes and laundry. Professor Nancy Darling, Ph.D., with "Psychology Today," states that although children moan and groan about completing chores, it benefits them by giving them a sense of family, a feeling of competence knowing that they've been helpful and a sense of gratitude. Preteens are also expected to complete their homework and study for tests with little supervision -- good study habits developed during this stage set a solid foundation for habits that will be necessary during high school and college. While preteens may want more independence, they must still honor curfews, which may be extended by an hour or so -- perhaps to 9 or 10 p.m. during summer hours -- if parents choose to do so.
Dating, to your preteen, is generally a more social experience that involves numerous friends, and mainly takes place at school or during outings with a group of friends, notes author Sunindia Bhalla with the OneToughJob.org website, an online resource for families. Parents may set specific rules for their preteens about having boyfriends and girlfriends; some may decide that their preteens can't begin "dating" until they reach high school, while other parents may view their preteens' desire to date as no big deal. Parents who allow their children to date may also want to set rules regarding social outings versus one-on-one dating. It's also important for parents to have an ongoing conversation with their preteens about sex, whether they're actively dating or not.
Drugs and Alcohol
While statistics generally begin to track adolescent drug and alcohol use around 12 years of age -- which only includes a small portion of preteens -- it's important for parents to establish clear rules prohibiting drug and alcohol use throughout adolescence. Medical professionals with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry report adolescent drug and alcohol experimentation is common, and parents should discuss with their children the risks associated with this behavior. It's helpful for parents to open a dialogue with their children at the onset of preadolescence -- around 10 years old -- to sufficiently prepare them for exposure to drugs and alcohol or potential peer pressure.
Social Media and Technology
In this information age, parents should set specific rules with their preteens about social media and technology use. In a panel discussion held in 2011, Yamalis Diaz, Ph.D., Lori Evans, Ph.D. and Richard Gallagher, Ph.D. with the NYU Child Study Center report that youths ages eight to 18 engage in more than six hours of social media activity each day -- they spend more time engaged in social media than in any other activity. Parents should establish guidelines that determine when preteens can log on to social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and when to shut off their cell phones at night. Furthermore, parents should set rules for how their preteens can interact with social media, cell phones and other forms of technology during study times.