Pre-teens (10-13 years)

The transition from child to adolescent

It is a time of great change physically, mentally and emotionally for your child and possibly one of the greatest Rites of Passage for children and parents alike. During this stage most children will begin feeling the effects of puberty and although this is an ongoing process (that may take up to 5 years or more) it will have a profound effect on most parent and child relationships. They will be entering a transition stage in their schooling, moving onto a secondary level, and in their lives between childhood and adulthood. The roller coaster ride through the adolescent years has begun. The good news for parents is that, according to recent neurological research, this is stage we can all learn from and not just a stage to be endured.


Teenage Girl Scenery_B&W


Physical Development

Physically he can look after himself independently but may need reminding to brush his teeth. He can perform many household chores and cook meals with guidance. Changes in his physical body, brain development and hormonal imbalances can cause some distress as he moves towards maturation. Most girls will start their menstruation cycle and boys will experience the effects of higher levels of testosterone. During this time they need to feel OK about the changes in their bodies, by offering to buy deodorant, facial wash or a first bra parents can give reassurance that they are on the journey with their emerging adolescent. He may also want to have more privacy and become increasingly embarrassed about nudity of or around other family members.

Where possible as your child enters secondary level education they can be encouraged in getting themselves to school. They can now be left at home for short periods by themselves during the day but will need to have the maturity to know what to do in an emergency and should not be left in charge of younger siblings.


Intellectual Development

Intellectually she is more capable of managing her own time, organising herself and completing tasks like homework on her own. She is becoming more aware of her own desires and drives as apart from her parents. Girls generally enter puberty much earlier than boys and will begin to experience this time of rapid growth and brain development more intensely in this period.

It was thought until recently that adolescence was just the difficult phase at the end of the brain’s development, a time of ‘madness’ caused by ‘raging hormones’, that teenagers just need to ‘grow up!’ But with the age of more detailed brain scans and insightful research it has been proposed that this stage is vital to the continued health of the human race. It has been discovered that the brain is not in fact matured (mapped out) completely until around 24years old, and in fact due to it’s plasticity it is possible to ‘learn new tricks’ up until the day we die. For more information on adolescent brain development and the plasticity of the brain see books by Daniel Siegel in our Resources section.


Language (Communication) Development

Language (communication) development becomes much more influenced by peers and popular culture. This may include an increase in offensive language, slang and words or phrases used amongst youth culture at the time. He feels a stronger need to conform to his peers. He may legitimate this type of behavior by reference to his friends considering it as the ‘norm’. He may start to seem more secretive, not necessarily wanting to share information about his day, or what is going on in his life generally, with his parents.

This is all normal behavior for pre–teen and teenagers. However, communication is still vital to a healthy relationship with your child. If possible find some time you can spend one to one away from distractions and siblings. Your child may not feel comfortable about direct questions but if you spend time together sharing a hobby, helping him with his homework or chores, or just going out for a favorite treat you can provide the ‘space’ your child may need. Often just chatting about nothing or sharing an observation or a joke can be reassuring that you are still there for them.


Emotional Development

Emotionally this stage can feel like the beginning of a maelstrom (storm brewing). At first it all seems very calm then suddenly your child has a ‘moody’ and everything you do, say or stand for is wrong! Emotions can become difficult to predict and control as changes in brain development and hormones can affect her ability to express herself. She has a greater awareness of her own and other people’s emotions but she is still learning to relate. She may ‘lash out’ emotionally losing control of what she is saying, or physically doing.

At these times she may seem particularly hurtful and directive in her feelings with her parents. She may become quite rigid and linear in her thinking. It seems that the slightest thing is ‘not fair’ and she has lost the ability to compromise. Again this behaviour is quite normal at this stage and is related to the need for adolescents to move towards greater independence. This can be very difficult for parents but it is important to try and not be hurt or affected by these changes. Your child needs to know that you still love and accept them even if they are pushing against boundaries and struggling in their relationship with you. At the same time it is important that they know that this type of behaviour is hurtful and unacceptable. As the adult you may need to give yourself and your child space and time to calm down before you have this conversation. Much like toddlers having a tantrum they cannot hear you in the ‘moment’.


Science Museum Games–B&W


Social Development

Socially the need to conform to their peer group is likely to affect their choice of friends and people they ‘hang out with’. Trying to identify with this group may lead to him wanting to ‘fit in’ with a certain style of dressing (clothes, hair, piercing), music and computer games. At home he may want to spend more time in his room alone and start to be reluctant in joining in family routines and rituals. He may spend more time on the Internet (if he has access) getting involved in social networks, chat rooms and gaming forums. This can be particularly worrying for parents concerned about Internet safety. Taking an interest in what they are doing online opens up the opportunity to talk about keeping themselves safe and not sharing personal information but don’t be surprised if your child is more ‘savvy’ than you about these things!

Your child’s awareness around their sexuality, relationships and the opposite sex is becoming increasingly important during this stage. Their questions about sex may become more directive, and as with earlier stages of development it is important to be honest and open with your child. It is worth noting that he may be much more open for discussion at this stage before he becomes a teenager when he may rely more on what he hears on the street or in the playground or from his friends to fill in the gaps. For more information on Sex and Relationships Education see our Special Needs section.

Your child will be moving up to secondary school during this stage. This transition can have a big impact on their social development. In the preceding months or year before this parents may want to take some time to think about how their child may adjust to these changes. Generally it is possible to visit schools in advance and all the schools in the Luxembourgish system have open days where you can tour the school and ask questions. It’s possible that you might be applying to several different schools so it might be worth starting off this process some time in advance. For more information about Secondary Education in Luxembourg see our Education section.

If possible try to contact some families who have children already attending the school of your choice. Talk to your child about any fears or expectations he may have about this transition. Ask him what questions he would like answered about studies, activities and social life at the new school. Make a transition plan together including these questions, and anything you need to know about the new school. If you are open in this process he will feel supported and may be able to talk more freely about any anxieties he may have. There are lots of good books and articles that can help you work through this together. For more information about making the transition to secondary school see our Resources section.

If your child has any special or additional educational needs this can be a particularly stressful time for you both. It is important that you are as open as possible with new possible schools. Be prepared to have any reports on your child ready to share and explicitly ask them what is in place for your child’s particular needs. See more information on Additional Educational Needs in our Special Needs section.

In general parents need to respect their child’s need for independence and space. Space can be physical by giving them some opportunity for privacy, if possible their own room. Space can also be emotional by giving them space for ‘wobbly’ emotions, forgiveness and reconciliation after conflict. As parents this can be a challenging time and it is important that you look after yourself by getting any extra information, advice or support you may need and taking ‘time out’ as well. For more information on ‘Time Out’ for Parents see our Resources section.



Further Information: Useful Links


If you are concerned about your child or have any questions about parenting in Luxembourg you can contact the Online Parent service in English at the Kanner Jugend Telefon



General Parenting

Family Lives: A UK-based website with lots of articles and information about subjects to do with building a healthy family environment for children and parents alike.

Empowering Parents: An American website full of interesting and useful articles about parenting. Highly recommended reading from preparing for the first day at school to kids leaving home and coming back with their dirty laundry.

Help Guides: An American website that has more than 200 articles, videos, and other resources based on the latest research, and updated regularly by a team of mental health professionals and writers. You can search topics of interest A-Z including information about family relationships, child development and additional educational needs.

The Mindsight Institute: The mission of The Mindsight Institute is to provide a scientifically grounded, integrated view of human development for mental health practitioners, educators and parents to promote the growth of vibrant lives and healthy minds. Dr. Siegel (founder) has written several books about this and collaboratively with Tina Bryson ‘The Whole Brain Child’ & ‘No Drama Discipline’.

Raising Boys: The Steve Biddulph community for Raising Boys brings together a collection of posts, articles and useful links for anyone wanting to connect and find out move about raising loving, connected and sensitive young men.

Raising Girls: The Steve Biddulph community for Raising Girls brings together a collection of posts, articles and useful links for anyone wanting to connect and find out move about raising loving, connected and strong young women.

NSPCC UK: The NSPCC offers parents information and advice about protecting their children from abuse online and in their day-to-day life including their ‘Underwear Rule’ for younger children.


Improving Communication in the Family

How to Talk to Teens – An Empowering Parents online article by Megan Devine that gives 3 ways to improve communication with your teenager.

7 Tips for Better Family Communication – An interesting article by Stephanie Tallman Smith about ways of improving communication in your family as children grow and family dynamics change.

Rules of Good CommunicationAn article from the Family Lives website about better communication with teenagers in the family.


Education & Study Skills

Ministry of Education: Information on schooling for students with a foreign mother tongue in Luxembourg.

Guide to Homeschooling in Luxembourg: An international website (with country-specific pages) providing information, resources and support for homeschooling families and educators.

BBC Bitesize: follows the UK curriculum but also has lots of activities, ideas and revision around subjects of interest to school children in general.


Positive Motivation

Supporting Positive Motivation in Teenagers: An online blog by psychologist Rick Hanson Ph.d., who writes about “the essential inner skills of personal well-being, psychological growth, and contemplative practice – as well as about relationships, family life, and raising children”. The article highlighted here has realistic working ideas that parents can adapt to help nurture their own children’s commitment to a positive life path.

7 Easy Ways To Motivate Someone With Asperger’s: This is a specialist book (available as a physical or eBook format) produced by Asperger Experts. It contains powerful, yet accessible techniques grounded in psychology and personal experience, that aims to motivate and influence without resorting to arguing, manipulation or stress. An invaluable (after-sales) online help and support service from Asperger Experts is an added bonus that comes with the purchase of this book.


Internet Safety

Digizen (UK): This UK Digizen website provides information for educators, parents, carers, and young people. It is used to strengthen their awareness and understanding of what digital citizenship is and encourages users of technology to be and become responsible DIGItal citiZENS. It shares specific advice and resources on issues such as social networking and cyberbullying and how these relate to and affect their own and other people’s online experiences and behaviours.

Cybersmile: is a UK based charity that raises awareness of cyberbullying or mobbing and helps the people who have been affected by it. They also highlight the pros and cons of digital social networking.

Bullying UK: This is an interactive site for young people and adults, that focuses on all types of bullying.

Common Sense Media: The leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families make smart media choices, by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools. Their Parent Concerns and Parent Blog sections are crammed with articles and practical advice to aid families in understanding and navigating the pitfalls and possibilities of raising children in the digital age.


Sex & Relationships

Childline UK: YouTube channel has various videos aimed at young people about issues to do with keeping themselves safe, coping with puberty, sex and relationships.

Scarleteen Sex Education for the Real World: This is a comprehensive sex & relationship education site for teenagers. You may want to visit this site before suggesting it to your child if only to help you understand the complexity of this issue for young people today. It will also serve as a useful place to go to share discussion one to one.


Drugs & Alcohol

Talk to Frank: is a UK based comprehensive website for young people and adults about Drugs & Alcohol. It gives information and advice about drugs, their use, the risks and the effects. We recommend that parents visit this site to increase knowledge about drug use, drug names (including slang names) and popular drugs used by young people.



Further Information: Recommended Reading

A Parent’s Survival Guide To Starting Secondary School by Andrew Broodie (2011)
Helpful guide for parents supporting children moving onto Secondary School. Although written for the UK it does include information about what to expect, independent study and organizational skills.

Brainstorm: The Power & Purpose of the Teenage Brain (12-24 years) by Daniel J. Siegel M.D. (2014)

Daniel Siegel writes about recent developments in our understanding of the adolescent brain and how we can embrace and enjoy more this time with our children turning into young adults. We would recommend reading earlier books ‘The Whole Brain Child’ & ‘No Drama Discipline’ before this book. Also see The Mindsight Institute.

How to Talk so Teens will Listen & Listen so Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish (2005)
This book follows on from the popular ‘How to Talk so Kids will Listen’. It is an easy read with lots of examples and opportunities to strengthen skills.

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively by Gary Chapman (2010)
This book is part of the ‘5 Languages of Love’ Series. The ‘5 Languages of Love’ was a concept first theorized for adults. The basic idea is that we all have different preferred ways of communicating and receiving messages of love. This book provides a tool for finding your teen’s love language and expressing your affections in an effective way. For more information see Passage Blog Articles.

Life Skills for Kids: Equipping your Child for the Real World by Christine M. Field (2000)
Practical book of how to begin teaching your children the skills they will need to move towards independent living.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey (2004)
This book is written by the son of Steven Covey famous for the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ series. Sean has written several books for children and teens. This book can help your teenager focus on working out their values, setting goals and looking to the future.

It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley (2014)
‘It’s Perfectly Normal’ has been updated with information on subjects such as safe and savvy Internet use, gender identity, emergency contraception, and more. Providing accurate and up-to-date answers to nearly every imaginable question, from conception and puberty to birth control and STDs. Recommended by the

Let’s Talk About Sex by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley (2014)
Now with expanded information on internet and texting safety, birth control, LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) issues and more. Providing accurate and up-to-date information to answer young people’s concerns and questions, from conception and puberty to birth control and AIDS, it offers everything they need – now more than ever – to make responsible decisions and stay healthy. Recommended by the


Developing Study Skills

Mind Maps for Kids: An Introduction to the Shortcut to Success at School by Tony Buzan (2003)
Many schools teach Mind Mapping as a useful tool for learning and revision. They are also great for creative thinking. This book is aimed at children 8 years+.

Mind Mapping for Dummies by Florian Rustler (2012)
A really good all-round resource for adults and teenagers. Learn how to make the most of this technique. The section on using Mind Maps to revise is particularly useful.


Bilingualism & Living in a Multi-lingual Environment

Growing Up with Two Languages: A Practical Guide for the Bilingual Family by Una Cunningham (2011)
Growing Up with Two Languages is aimed at the many parents and professionals who feel uncertain about the best way to go about helping children gain maximum benefit from the multilingual situation like Luxembourg. The trials and rewards of life with two languages and cultures are discussed in detail, and followed by practical advice on how to support the child’s linguistic development.

Be Bilingual – Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families by Annika Bourgogne (2013)
Be Bilingual is full of practical, creative, and fun ideas backed up by the latest research. It shows families how to make multilingualism work in their busy lives. Multilingual families from all around the world have contributed by sharing their best resources and tips on how to make growing up with two or more languages an enjoyable experience.

Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism (Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides) by Colin Baker (2014)
In this accessible guide to bilingualism in the family and the classroom, Colin Baker delivers a realistic picture of the joys and difficulties of raising bilingual children. The Q&A format of this book makes it the natural choice for the busy parent or teacher who needs an easy reference guide to the most frequently asked questions.



Article by:  Lynn Frank who is a coordinator for Passage.

Last updated:  Friday28th September, 2018