If you have a 9-13 year old or work with them at church, here is some simple advice on how to practically show them love through the awkward and weird stages they go through. Of course, boys and girls can be very different in this stage, but I'm sure that parents know their kids well enough to understand how to apply these principles. Research says that by age 12, kids have established their foundation about things such as God and faith, and their worldview has already been developed. Also, about half of all Christians will make their decision to follow Jesus before 13, and about 90% by the time they are 18. So obviously, these years are incredibly important in the spiritual, emotional, and mental development of children.
When girls begin to notice their appearance more, and begin comparing their body to other girls, this can be an emotional and frustrating time; even when it seems trivial to adults, it's not to them.
-When she wears her favorite outfit, tell her how beautiful she looks
-When she likes the way she looks, notice it! Then use that as an opportunity to encourage her
-Don't say "you'll get through this" or "this is just a phase" or "you can barely see that HUGE PIMPLE:" it may be true, but it's everything to them. Use those opportunities to reinforce God's role in creating her and giving her a purpose. Focus on what she likes about herself instead of excusing what she doesn't like.
-Begin offering social accountability: friends are important, so make sure she gets to go to more social events such as sleepovers, or allow them set times to be on social media. Avoid thinking that church and school is enough social time for girls this age.
-Have intentional conversations with her; she may have awkward or personal questions, so be open to hear her concerns and allow her to bond with you over these things. Showing that you're willing to listen makes her feel respected and grown-up.
Boys do care about their appearance, but fitting in and finding a place to be cool and respected is often a motivator behind tween boys' behaviors.
-Use words like "handsome," or "stylish" instead of "cute" or "nice" when commenting on their appearance.
-Tween boys have deep emotional feelings, but they are learning how to hide them or keep them from mom and dad. Make sure you have intentional conversations and pick up on subtle cues. Boys tend to express themselves with body language or actions instead of words.
-Emotionally unbalanced parents rub off on their kids; if a child is exhibiting rage or is extremely distant, there may be deeper issues that need to be worked out. Don't write off outbursts as just being a growing boy.
-Boys have an innate desire to be respected and honored: make sure that when they are awarded or succeed in school or sports, you make a big deal out of it. Show them love by the way you respond to good behavior and accomplishments. However, this is also why boys this age can be aggressive and arrogant. When the need for respect is stifled, they will act out to obtain it.
-Friends are important: just because a boy likes to play video games alone doesn't mean he really wants to: invite friends over and allow them to participate in sleepovers or camp-outs so they can feel connected to friends.