Help! My Pre-Teen Is A Moody Mess

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Jackie Olsen, from Timmonsville, South Carolina wrote to us asking for some advice on how to deal with her moody preteen daughter. It’s no wonder why tweens (pre-teens) are such moody creatures—between their intense need for acceptance, social pressures, stress at school and of course, their raging hormones, the average pre-teen has quite a bit on their plate.

Puberty affects the whole family: yes, Moms, Dads and siblings get caught-up in the growing pains too. Dad may struggle with the idea that his darling little girl is starting to become interested in boys. Younger siblings may wonder why their big brother or sister all of a sudden would rather be shut-up in their room playing video games, instead of playing with them.

As for you mom, it’s only normal for you to feel sad when your child’s classmates and friends begin to take on the role of “confidant and advisor”—a role that’s been reserved solely for you for years now. It’s only normal for you to feel a sense of loss when your child starts to develop a taste for independence: listen to that feeling, take it in deeply and accept it for what it is. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and for your child (oopse—we meant preteen! Yes, they hate being called children and tween is just an insult in their eyes)!

Adolescence is one of the most challenging rites of passage for parents. Your preteens need for independence is only going to grow stronger as they grow. But know that they will come back to you in time.

Here are some tips to help make the road a little less rocky during the in-between years:

  • Ride Out the Storm: As frustrating as it may be, try not to engage your preteen when they are in the throes of an emotional meltdown. The hormonal influx at this age is particularly intense and arguments can quickly escalate out of control. You’ll do yourself and your child a favor if you simply say something along the lines of “I will not talk to you when you’re this upset. Once you calm down, we can continue this conversation.”
  • Spend Quality Time Together—on Your Tween’s Terms: Though they may not want to admit it, preteens still want and need their parents’ love and attention while they cultivate some independence. Let your preteen pick the movie for family movie night, or decide which restaurant to order take-out from. Learn about your preteens interests and try to nurture them. Does your son enjoy playing the guitar? See if you can find a family friendly open-mic night where he can share his passion with others.
  • Choose Your Battles: Clearly line out what behaviors are unacceptable and what the consequences will be, but choose your battles wisely. You may find that minor infractions such a messy room or a jacket tossed onto the couch aren’t worth the stress of an argument.
  • Engage In Some Serious Girl Talk: Girls face unique challenges throughout their adolescent years. Have open, honest and frequent talks with your daughter about the changes her body is going through. Prepare her for menstruation and nurture her, at a time when she’ll need it most.

    Encourage healthy eating and proper exercise. Try to listen to her fears and thoughts without judgment. Many times, adolescents are simply looking to vent rather than to receive advice.

  • Remember, Boys Need To Talk Too: While preteen girls tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves, preteen boys are more apt to become sullen and withdrawn when something is bothering them. With a veritable mass of information on the importance of building self-esteem in young women, it’s very easy to overlook the fact that adolescent boys need just as much support as their female peers.

    William Pollock, author of the best-selling book Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Boyhood encourages parents to converse their son in what he terms ‘action talk’—that is, parents having conversations with their son as he is engaged in some sort of activity such as fishing or woodworking. Pollock believes it is easier for boys to open up about their feelings while their hands are busy working.

As you navigate that potholed, twisting, unpredictable preteen road, try to keep in mind that your child needs your love and support now more than ever! Try not to take their outbursts as personal insults. Hormones are raging and the tween brain has not yet fully developed the coping mechanism needed to deal with such a wide-range of emotions.

Don’t forget: your preteen still is (and always will be) your darling little angel in pigtails, or your handsome little boy in overalls—you will both make it through this together.

Hope this was helpful for you Jackie!

What expert mom advice can you give on dealing with preteens?

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