Stop for a moment and remember back to when you were a tween -- no longer a little kid, yet not quite a teenager. It is an age of testing boundaries and trying new things. Tweens may be comfortable playing with stuffed animals one day, testing out the latest lipstick shade the next. Being the tween is hard, but at times being the parent feels even harder.
"Sometimes when I'm just in a bad mood, my mom won't leave me alone! She just keeps asking me what's wrong. I wish she could just let me get over my bad mood in my own way," says one 12-year-old girl. Mood swings are typical at this age, when your daughter's hormones are fluctuating. Add the stresses of middle school, her social life and her growing need to be more independent and you've got the recipe for a moody cocktail.
"Puberty is a period of intense hormonal changes," says Michele Borba Ed.D., parenting expert. "New brain research shows that the area of the brain that regulates emotions is still developing. So expect those mood swings and extremes." Sometimes tweens can't quantify what's wrong, they simply feel moody. Make yourself available during quiet times -- like while driving in the car -- and try to just be present. Chances are if your tween has something to say, she will.
Does your tween spurn your hugs or give one-word answers to your questions when you are out in public? Tweens are hypersensitive to the opinions of others, and are likely to be a bit embarrassed to be seen in public with you. "Just because I'm not all happy to shop with my mom doesn't mean I don't love her," says an 11-year-old girl whose mom seems hurt by her reactions. Find ways to make your daughter feel more independent when out in public. When shopping for clothes, let her wander the racks while you browse in a different department. Let her order her own meal when dining out with the family. Little gestures in public show your tween that you value her growing maturity.
"My friends are a big deal to me," says another 12-year-old. Friends and social circles are everything to your tween. The slightest disruption in a relationship can feel like the end of the world. While it may seem silly to you, try and understand how important these interactions are to your daughter. "Their hurt is intense and real," says Dr. Borba. "It may take a while for them to bounce back -- especially during these years when one of their top concerns is peer humiliation."
Bottom line^ Step back just a bit during these years -- the payoff will be a more confident teen in the years to come.