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The Difference Between Tween and Teen

Many parents fear the dreaded teen years, preparing themselves for years of mood swings, rebellion, and tough conversations. While this can be a part of your teen’s journey, it definitely isn’t all bad. The teenage years are when your kids will mature. You’ll be able to guide them as they grow into adults, which is a pretty amazing thing to be a part of.

Believe it or not, all these changes don’t just appear when your kids turn 13. The tween years are just as impactful when it comes to their overall development. The question is, what is the difference between teen and tween, and why does that distinction matter?

What is a Tween?

The definition of a teen is pretty straight forward: a teen is a person between the ages of 13 and 19. The tween definition is a little less clear cut when you’re asking “what age is a tween”. There is no official tween definition. Generally, tweens are considered to be people who are neither young children nor adolescents. This usually falls between the ages of 8 and 12.

Also known as pre-teens, tweens go through their own changes and transitions just as teens do. While everyone begins their tween journey at slightly different times, at some point in the 8 to 12 age range you’ll likely begin to notice big changes in your kids. They will reach a point where they will no longer be your little girl or boy anymore as they begin to develop independence, individuality, and maturity. If you have noticed these changes and your kid hasn’t hit 13, they are officially in the tween years.

The Tween Years vs The Teen Years

Throughout the tween years, your tween will be going through big changes. They will likely enter puberty, undergo significant brain development, their social lives and circles will change, and they will begin to crave independence and individuality. All of these changes are preparing them and their bodies for the teen years, which is where they will shift from childhood to adulthood. Here are a few of the key differences between tween and teen when it comes to their development and what you can expect.

The Difference Between Tween and Teen

Mental Maturity

One of the biggest differences you’ll notice from childhood to the tween and teen years is the mental maturity of your child. They will, quite simply, begin to grow up. You’ll start to notice your tween beginning to empathise with others, grow into more mature tastes, and further understand the world around them. Sometimes seen as a loss of innocence, this maturing is a good thing. While you’ll see the first glimmers of mental maturity in the tween years, the teen years are where your child will truly grow into an adult.


As tweens creep closer to the teen years, you’ll notice them developing a clearer sense of self. They will likely begin to explore new interests as they find their own individuality. This self-exploration is experimental, so don’t be shocked if their tastes and interests change frequently throughout this time. The best thing we can do is encourage this self-exploration as much as we can within reason. It is part of what will define their sense of self that continues to develop throughout their teen years.


As they experiment with their individuality, your tween will also begin to crave independence. This can be difficult for some parents to go through, as it can feel as though your child is pushing you away.

The key difference between tween and teen here is that, usually, tweens are still receptive to their parents and are only beginning to stretch their independence by increasing responsibilities such as chores and extra-curricular activities. In teens, this longing for independence can become extreme. They are usually much less likely to want to spend time or discuss their feelings with family once they’re in their teen years.

Social Changes

More big changes that occur in the tween years are social changes. One day your child will be playing at lunch, the next day they will be a tween, spending their spare time socialising rather than playing.
These social changes often come with pressure to fit in. This, unfortunately, can result in a lack of confidence, peer pressure, and other social challenges. These social pressures may initially intensify when your tween moves into the teen years. As your teen grows in confidence and maturity, social challenges are likely to fade in importance toward the end of the teen years.

Physical Changes

Children are in a constant state of growth. When they reach the tween years, this growth will be magnified by the onset of puberty. It goes without saying that your child will experience some pretty significant physical changes throughout their tween and teen years. Everyone’s puberty starts at a different time and will present in unique ways. This can make this period particularly difficult for tweens and teen.

Relationship With Parents

While your child navigates their way through their tween and teen years, their relationship with their parents will change. The difference between tween and teen relationships with parents is that, while tweens are more receptive to parent’s input, teens can generally be a little more distant and sometimes even hostile towards their parents.

Remember that this too shall pass. All you can do is be there for them and support their self-exploration while implementing healthy boundaries and rules. As they grow you’ll be able to influence and guide them. When they mature so will your relationship. While they may not be your little boy or girl anymore, your new relationship with them will grow into something just as special and rewarding.
Looking for great tips when it comes to raising your tween or teen? Check out our blog!

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