So, you’ve got a tween…
…you thought these years were going to be blissful….
Just you, your daughter, and maybe some unicorns, Lisa-Frank diaries, vampire movies, and celebrity crushes…
But instead you get:
- Mean girl drama, screaming “you just don’t understand”
- Constant tearful meltdowns about being too fat or too skinny
- Refusal to wear new clothes because “that girl” said they were babyish
- Slammed doors and silence during dinner
- And many other things that you couldn’t imagine dealing with at that age…
Let’s face it. It’s hard. It’s hard to be in those in-between years- where you aren’t yet a teenager but still not a young child.
It’s also hard for parents. Hard to sit back and cry at night, wondering how you can help your baby girl?
I can help, maybe just a bit.
To help you and your tween survive and thrive these tween years, I’ve complied a list of helpful hints you can implement immediately. Take a look..
1. Listen. Listen. Listen.
Don’t try to fix. Being able to “feel felt” will calm down your daughter.
2. Validate her feelings.
What may seem crazy to you is VERY real to her. That look the poplar gave her at lunch- yeah that feels like life or death to her.
3. Don’t minimize.
You feel like your problems are REAL problems. You have to worry about keeping the roof over her head and gas in the car. But, as mentioned, those problems of where she is going to sit in the lunchroom feel just as real to her. Acknowledge that and again LISTEN.
4. Make eye contact.
Only engage in conversations when you are fully present. Tweens are super sensitive to rejection and your actions of being on your phone while she is talking makes her feel like she isn’t important.
5. Mind your speech.
Tweens are serious imitators. Although they often have the push-pull of identity, you are still important in figuring out how to navigate the world. If you are able to control yourself when angry, they will be much more likely to do so.
6. Ask about highs and lows
If you ask your tween a general question about their day, you will likely get a one word or grunt answer. But if you ask specific questions, such as “what was your high (best part) and low (worst part),” you’ll get much better connection and conversations.
7. Give her time.
She may slam the door and scream. Don’t try to talk to her right then. Give her a minute to use her skills and breathe to help her brain come back online. If you try to crowd her too much when she’s angry, it will only escalate things.
8. Set limits.
She’s going to test you. But, you’re the adult and your job is to help her talk about her feelings in an acceptable manner. For example, when give her time, let her know it’s okay to be mad but in 20 minutes, she needs to come back and talk about what is going happening with her. Give her space but let her know what is expected.
9. Give genuine, unexpected compliments.
Tweens have a serious b.s. detector. So, if you put on your mom voice and give her the nice head pat when she asks you about her outfit, you will likely get a turn of her back with a huff. But- if you are able to notice something about her that you genuinely like- such as the cool way she is doing her bracelets or the choice of her outfit, say it! She knows if you are paying attention and it does matter.
10. Be cool with “little kid” activities.
It’s important that she be seen as “cool” with her friends but she honestly does like those activites she may claim are too babyish in front of others. Make time to allow her to continue her interests in her looming or an arts and crafts night.
11. Refrain from comparisons.
You have an older daughter. She was NOTHING like your tween. It’s easy to fall back into comparisons and voice these. Please don’t. Comparisons are krypotonite to your tween. She’s her own little soul.
12. Educate her.
Her body may be changing, or at least she has friends who are going through this right of passage into womanhood. It’s scary and can be shame-educing. Talk with her about her body in an open and frank manner. The more she knows about what is happening, the better she will be able to handle the changes.
13. Know her likes and dislikes.
Many tweens love Minecraft. Others are super into reading about wolves. Whatever your tween loves, it will help if you have a decent knowledge of it. You don’t have to be the expert but having a working basis for communication about her loves is crucial.
14. Use emotion-filled language in your life.
Again, she is watching you and learning from how you are with others. When you use words to label your emotions, such as “I’m so frustrated right now because I burned the pizza” rather than “I’m so freaking pissed at everything.” When you name your feelings, it allows a model for how to label what she is going through as well.
15. Don’t assume.
Ask honest questions to get to the real answers. If you settle for one word answers, she will know not expressing her feelings is okay. Just because things were a certain way when you were growing up does not mean it is the same.
16. Have a life.
These years are trying for both you and your tween. If you are a helicopter parent who has no other life than her, you won’t allow her to stretch her wings herself. It healthy for her to struggle a bit and to know that she isn’t the center of everyone’s world. Be nice to yourself and everything gets a little easier.
17. Teach her to breathe.
The number 1 coping skill for everyone everywhere is their own breath. Teach your tween to use her breath as a way to manage her emotions. I teach 4 count breathing to my tweens. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, download an app and make it a joint effort. Model breathing yourself.
18. Understand her brain.
We used to think adolescence started at 13. Now we know it’s much younger- even as young as 8 or 9 with girls (they mature faster than boys, as you likely know). The adolescent brain is changing daily, it’s structure changing almost daily. What this means is that your daughter may seem like she’s one person one day and then a different one the next (or even within the hour!) Know this likely doesn’t mean your child is chemically imbalanced but that her brain is working overtime.
19. Understand that her friends may trump you. Don’t take it personally.
As mentioned, her brain is changing during this time. When her brain perceives that she doesn’t fit in or she may be “cut” from the crowd, it’s sensing almost a life or death feeling. What may seem crazy to you is very real for her. Her most important concern is likely her relationship with her friends and peers. You may feel like you are way down on her list. Don’t take this as a personal slight. It’s normal. It would actually be more worrisome if she was never concerned about her friends.
20. Schedule quality time.
If you don’t make it a priority, it won’t happen. You both have many things going on and it’s easy to let time get away from you. Block off your calendar. Make it a “date night.” Don’t worry about spending money or doing things fancy. Taking a ride to get ice cream and asking questions about what she likes makes for powerful quality time.
The best defense is a good offense with your tween. On those days when she feels teary or mad at the world, you will not take it personally and have a plan about how to handle these mood swings. Remember, she’s still pretty new to this world and she’s still learning how to express herself appropriately.
22. Enjoy her.
She will only be this age for a while. The days are long but the years are short. Next time you blink she’ll be going away to college and marrying that boy she met in med school. Connect with her. Enjoy her. She’s a beautiful soul.
Hopefully now you have a little more hope and feel more confident with helping your tween.
Want even more help so you don’t have to do it all yourself??
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