Teenagers are moody. The ups and downs of teen hormones are so commonplace and expected that parents are more likely to be concerned if their teenager doesn’t experience the massive mood swings associated with transitioning from child to adult. For some parents, however, this behavior comes a little early and is entirely unexpected. Parents who prepared themselves to deal with the rebellious/belligerent/infatuated/best-day-of-my-life moments typical to teenagers often find themselves ill-equipped to handle the ball of emotions inhabiting their tween’s body. Children in this age-group can seem just like the child they know and love one minute and a sullen stranger or angry alien the next.
What Makes Them Moody?
Tweens are moody for the same reason teenagers are moody; they are changing into a new person which brings a host of factors into play. They are in the midst of building a whole new identity, trying to figure out who they are, what they like, and where they fit in. They are establishing and stabilizing friendships, forming cliques, and creating new communities all the while the elementary school days when everyone was friends with everyone fades further into their past. Peer pressure begins to play a real role in their lives and the need to fit in becomes one of the most important things in their lives. Their bodies are starting to change which means hormones are wreaking havoc and often leaving them as bewildered as their parents at their ever shifting behavior.
In short, they have a lot going on!
Now, if there are any additional factors like dysfunction in the family, divorce, or instability at home, these extreme moods can feel like a rollercoaster ride that is all terror and no fun.
What Can Parents Do?
One of the most important things parents can do to help their tweens through this stage is to validate their emotions, take time to talk to them often about what is happening in their lives and what they are going through, and discussing how they are feeling. As tweens struggle in this limbo between child and teenager, they are looking to assert their independence but still need support, direction and reassurance from their parents and the other adults in their lives. While they need to start learning to make decisions for themselves, they need guidance and assistance to learn how to make the right decisions that are healthy and appropriate. Setting appropriate boundaries and providing natural consequences for when those boundaries are pushed is also necessary.
Parents often struggle with communication when their tween seems to be trying on new and different personalities on for size on a daily basis. However, this is one time that remaining connected and maintaining communication channels is vitally important. Talk to your tween directly about the changes you are seeing and the behavior you are observing. Check in regularly to see what challenges they are facing, changes they are going through, or feelings that are experiencing. It is common for tweens to keep these issues to themselves which is why it is so important for parents to ask, discuss, and guide.
Do’s and Don’ts of Keeping a Close Relationship with Your Tween
- Do – Use an authoritative parenting style. This means that parents need to have realistic expectations for their tween and be responsive to their needs.
- Do – Model healthy emotional expression/emotional regulation skills and effective communication skills.
- Do – Support your tween by assisting with difficult decisions and providing support for their struggles
- Do – Spend quality time with your tween. Make it a point to tell them how much they are loved and valued for who they are (not what they do or their appearance) as often as you can.
- Don’t – Avoid setting appropriate boundaries and allowing for natural consequences.
- Don’t – Put unrealistic expectations and pressure on them.
- Don’t – Try to fix their problems. Instead, assist them in solving their own problems.
- Don’t – Hesitate to get support from a professional counselor if your tween is struggling to identify, express, or regulate their emotions.