PARENTS

10 Things Every Child Should Do Before The Big 1-3

30/03/2011 12:06 | Updated 22 May 2015

The transition from tween to teen is a pretty big deal for your child – and it can be a challenge for you as a parent too.

But while you wait for your DD to start grunting in monosyllables and nailing 'do not disturb' signs on the bedroom door, you may as well make the most of those last precious rays of childhood by having some fun, and at the same time help to smooth the path to teenhood.

Encouraging your child to become independent is key to confidence-building at this age, says Alison Baverstock, co-author of Whatever!: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Parenting Teenagers (Piatkus, £8.99).

'Learning to be independent happens bit by bit – it comes in stages," she says. Alison recommends thinking small to begin with – like letting your child prepare a simple meal on his own – and gradually building up his sense of freedom.

Of course, learning to let go can induce terrible anxiety in parents. "It's hard to balance caring for your child and giving him room to grow," says Alison. But she firmly believes there'd be far more to worry about if you didn't start to loosen the reins. "Children really only learn through experiencing things themselves, so a cotton wool approach won't help him adjust to life as an independent person," she says.

The school holidays are a perfect time to help your child make his first forays into the big wide world. Here are just a few things he could try doing before he hits the big 1-3.

1. Go on a train or bus without an adult – even if it's only a couple of stops.

"The things we take for granted, like getting on a bus alone – can bring a terrific sense of achievement for a child when they first do it on their own," says Alison.

2. Learn how to say no to his friends.

Gael Lindenfield, psychotherapist and author of How to Raise a Positive, Confident and Happy Teenager (Thorsons, £10.99), says: "One of the biggest hurdles for children in their early teens is coping with peer pressure.

"Help your child feel confident about saying no by talking to him about this in advance, and practising ways to refuse politely if he doesn't want to do something."

3. Go on a rollercoaster ride.

Tweenagers are good at developing anxieties. Doing something a little bit scary and exhilarating can challenge these and make them feel good about themselves.

4. Dance – with you.

No teenager will ever want to boogie on down with their parents, so make the most of it while you can (OK, it may already be too late, but it was worth a try).

5. Write a holiday diary.

"My 16-year-old's favourite possession is the diary she kept over the summer when she was 12," says mum Sharon Francis. " It gives something wonderful to look back on now she's grown up."

6. Follow directions on a map.

You could even send him on a treasure hunt around the park if you're feeling inspired.

7. Get familiar with money.

"Let your child go to the shop to buy a few things, without giving him the exact money, so that they come back with the change. This helps him feel trusted, which is a great confidence booster," says Anna.

8. Go camping.

Childhood was made for it. Teenhood was not.

9. Be home alone.

If he's comfortable, start with 10 minutes and work your way upwards. Talk about safety, which neighbours he'd go to first, and make sure he has relevant phone numbers – otherwise you'll spend your whole time panicking.

10. Develop a plan B.

"Before he ventures out on his own for a new challenge, make sure he has thought through and shared with you his strategy should anything go wrong. For example, what should he do if he loses his bus pass on his way home? Getting used to discussing and planning these things are important for confidence", says Gael.

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