Okay, back to school time is upon us and boy, have I found that shopping with a tween is a whole new ballgame. In previous years, I would order whatever I liked online or pick up items in store, and my daughter would wear them. Simple as that.

But now, she has an opinion. //Imagine that//

We are also working with uniform constraints, which adds an additional layer of complication. (Post coming soon on how to make uniforms less boring!)

Here are my tried and true tips for a nightmare free shopping experience for both mom and tween alike.

1. Don't Wait till the Last Minute

This applies to everything from swimsuit shopping to back to school clothes. I have found if I'm under a time crunch things never go well. I'm agitated and stressed, and it only gets worse as she exerts her opinions and dislikes items I think are perfectly fine. Shop early and if you can, and shop one on one. This can change the atmosphere and turn a potentially frustrating situation into a fun mom + me outing.

2. Shop Online

This is a great option if you have other kids at home and a one-on-one shopping trip is out of the question. As my daughter has gotten more web savvy, this method proves the best time saver for me. I log-in to our favorite website, and let her go crazy with the "add to cart" button. Then, we go through the items and narrow down our top picks. I attempt to shop at places online that offer free shipping and free in-store returns. When the items arrive, we have a try-on session at home. We make one pile for returns and one for keeps. Yes, you do have to make a trip to the store to return items, but I find this process quicker than hauling my kids into the mall for only the possibility of finding the items we need.

3. Give Specific Guidelines

We have some rules about dress and what styles are appropriate. We like to avoid sassy or rude graphic tees. We avoid items that reveal under-garments, either by material, make/color or style. Sometimes for bigger ticket items like shoes and winter coats, I like to give a price range that I'm comfortable with. Zoe is aware of these guidelines, which means she knows to shop within those perimeters. Also, before we go shopping I tell her what specific items we are looking for. This helps cut down on the "But it's SO cute!!!" comments where she begs for a $30 avocado shaped pillow.

4. Give a Free Pass

As a general rule, Mom has ultimate veto, based on the guidelines and the fact that I'm paying for the clothes. However, I'm working at letting Zoe grow into who she wants to be and part of that is letting her chose her wardrobe. While our styles align well, there is always an item or two that meets the guidelines, but I'm just not crazy about (flip sequins, anyone??). When we are doing a major shopping trip like back to school or "I-grew-out-of-EVERYTHING-in-the-last-6-weeks", I try to allow her one free pass on an item that meets all the criteria, but I'm just not in love with. In recent years, the free pass item was a pair of neon orange tennis shoes. They assaulted my eyes but she adored them and wore them all the time. The free pass item can help smooth out the compound rejection on a shopping trip.

Do you have any shopping with tweens tips? I'd love to hear them + add them to my list.

My friend Heather is a supermom. She has 4 kiddos, her oldest is an 11 year old tween, and her youngest is 3. She is currently momming like a rockstar, building a thriving real estate business with her dad, and finishing her degree.

Last year, she got her kids to commit to and COMPLETE, a screen free summer! This year, her husband is working out of town most weeks, and she decided to do the #screenfreesummer again. I was (and am!) in awe of this commitment and decision. I asked her to answer some questions, hoping to get a better glimpse at why and how her family decided to opt for no-screens this summer.

Q: Where did you get the idea for #screenfreesummer?

A: From my friend who did it with her kids the summer before. She had 4 kids and raved about the results it yielded from them. She paid her kids $100/each to do it. I initially thought she was CRAZY! How could she manage a shower, or anything without possibly even having just an afternoon movie on? Plus, I thought $100 each? That's so much! Her kids were similar in ages to mine, including down to our youngest's. I admired her for even doing that. Then the more I thought about it and read about the effects screen time can have on kids and paying attention to my own kids and their behavior after having it, I didn't think it was so crazy! Q: How did your kids react when you told them?

A: We did it last summer (2018) for the first time and so this year is our 2nd year doing it. Last spring I actually asked for their input on how they felt about trying it out. I was shocked to hear they were ALL for it. When they heard they got $100 at the end of the summer, they were 100% in. I was the one who was still more reluctant, but because of their enthusiasm, I went for it! Q: What are your rules for #screenfreesummer?

A: No screens. No ipads, phones, computer, tv, Netflix, kindles tablets, anything from the day after school gets out to the day before school starts. They lose $5 for even asking. In addition to earning $100 each at the end of every summer, they also earn $1/chapter book they read (larger books over 350+ pages equal bigger payouts (aka: the last 4 Harry Potter books are $10/each). Last summer my (then 10 year old) earned $124, my 7 1/2 yr old earned $114, my 5 year old earned $101. I didn't pay my 2 year old. haha. Q: Do you make any exceptions? Like road trips or sick days?

A: There are a couple exceptions.  

1.We have a family tradition of pizza/video night every Saturday. We watch classics, new movies and such together. That doesn't count.  

2. If they go to a friends house, I don't expect their parents or friends to have to change their rules for our summer challenge, so they can watch or play video games there. (We don't have too many play dates at other peoples homes, so that doesn't get too out of control).

3. Going to a movie theater doesn't count.

However, last summer we did an 8 hour/one way road trip from CO>UT and UT>CO. They didn't do any movies on that either. They listened to books on "tape" in the car as a family. We got through the first 1.5 Harry Potter's that way. We haven't experienced a "sick day" during summer, so I don't know how we would handle that. It probably be just books on "tape" and naps for that. I don't want them faking sick to get a movie. They totally would do that, haha. Q: Did you ever want to throw in the towel? Did your kids?

A: At the beginning of each summer there is a "detox" period. The first week is the roughest. Their first inclination for entertainment was immediately to a screen. So when it stopped, they had to really adjust their thoughts and habits. Q: What was the best part of doing #screenfreesummer?

A: How happy they are. They get along. They use their imaginations. They actually PLAY with toys! The basement becomes a barbie "town". The bedroom becomes a Lego haven. I love seeing their moods better, happier, and they get along with each other. The BIGGEST reward we saw was when it was time to go back to school. They transitioned to school and homework and everything so smoothly. Better than ever before. Their teachers noticed a difference in them from their classmates. They were ready to focus and learn and hit the ground running. Their grades maintained higher than the previous year too. That is worth more to me than anything.

Q: What was the hardest part of doing #screenfreesummer?

The detox. Those first couple weeks are rough. We are in week 2 of summer and I'm finally seeing a happier side of doing this. I think we are finally finished with the detox. It can also be hard for me too in that my first inclination to keep them busy so I could have a "moment" was to put them in front a screen too. Especially, my busy 3 year old. But now, we play outside a lot more. I have a nice front porch I can sit on to do some work while still watching them ride bikes and play. My 3 year old still naps too, so when he goes down, we have "quiet time". They have to go play outside, in the basement or go ready a book quietly if they stay by me. It helps give me a moment to breathe.

Q: What advice would you give to other moms who want to try this?

A: Don't give in. They will beg and plead in the beginning, but stick with it. The results are amazing and WELL worth it! Q: What are your favorite things to do to occupy the kids?

A: We play outside A LOT! Chalk, bikes, scooters, slip-n-slides, swing set, our neighbors trampoline. We also planned a weekly library day too, that helps keep the reading motivation up. We do park days once a week with a group of friends. My kids also are involved some music lessons (piano & violin) and they have practice minutes competitions in addition to their lessons. My 11 year old is now taking sewing lessons & hip hop dance, along with her violin. My 8 yr old is in baseball, swimming lessons and piano. My 6 yr old is in swimming lessons, ballet and a couple "day camps". This helps them look forward to things and not just sit around wishing for something and falling into the "bored trap".

While I don't know that I'm ready to commit to a 100% #screenfreesummer, hearing Heather's experience definitely made me re-think our rules about screen time during the summer.

What are you rules for your tweens during the summertime?

Would you or do you do a #screenfreesummer?

We'd love to hear your experiences!

I'm really good at ideas.

They come to me frequently.

Many times, I start working on them right away.

Then when I'm about 75-80% done, the fear creeps in...

Two years ago, the idea for this community came to me while I was cooking dinner, pasta to be exact. I'm not sure how the boiling water and cool darkness outside combined to create this magic, but it did. This idea, " The Tween Years," came so big and so fast, I had a hard time getting all the information down onto paper.

However, this same historical pattern of idea turned into creation, the stunted by fear, happened again. (Along with a lot of life changes getting in the way)

"The Tween Years" got pushed to the back burner.

Then a few months ago, the idea started warming up again. I was (and still am) full of fear (and let's be honest, excuses). However, a few close friends pushed back on those fears and excuses. They helped re-frame my thinking. Instead of focusing on my possible failure, they focused on the possible.

So without further adieu, here it is...

The Tween Years

This blog is a place to talk about fluff, the tough stuff and everything in between. You will see posts on teaching your tween life skills, connecting with your tween, shopping for (and with) your tween, talking about mental health with your tween, talking about puberty with your tween and so much more!

I am a mom who thinks that the years between 8-13 are some of the best and the hardest for our kids. They are bridging a huge gap physically, emotionally and socially during these ages. I want this place to be a resource and community where we can share our experiences.

Please feel free to drop us a line and let me know what brought you here, what you'd like to see, etc.