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Mood swings and puberty—and 4 simple ways to cope

By Amanda Stokes 3 min read
Tuesday, October 13, 2020

This is the time in our daughters' lives where their hormones start surging, their bodies are changing with the onset of puberty and their relationships with their friends are becoming more important.

The "tweenage" years can be a shock to the system for us as parents. One minute we have an openly affectionate, compliant bundle of joy, and the next moment we’re dealing with an eye-rolling, tone-filled mini version of who we once were! My mum refers to this stage as payback, although I remember being a complete and utter angel when I went through the tween years . . .

Whether you were the perfect tween when you were growing up or not, these in-between years are set to challenge you. The first thing I say to all parents is that everything you’re experiencing is perfectly normal. This is the time in our daughters’ lives where their hormones start surging, their bodies are changing with the onset of puberty and their relationships with their friends are becoming more important. To add to the complication, there are more extraneous factors impacting their lives as they begin, for the first time, to compare themselves to others, as they start to figure out who it is they want to be.

My eldest daughter is almost 10 and there are days when if looks could kill, I’d be dead, but I always remind her that I invented those looks and we stare at each other until we’re both in fits of laughter or until someone cries.

The tweenage years are an emotional time. Here are my top 4 tips for dealing with your tween's moods:

1. Give them the chance to change their tone

Our tweens don’t hear the tone they deliver to us, which is why when we yell at them about their tone, they look at us with disbelief. Providing your daughter an opportunity to hear herself is important. A few ways you could do that would be to say:

  • “Can you repeat that in a different tone please?”
  • “When you talk to me that way, it makes it very hard for me to listen to you, can you try saying that again please?”

For many of us, our default is to fight snarky remark with snarky remark, but when we do that no-one wins. Calmly allowing our daughters a chance to restate what they wanted to say, is a powerful way to help them address the way they talk to us without getting into an altercation with them.

2. Wait for them to calm down

When your daughter is upset—whether it be a rational outburst or an irrational one over who’s holding the remote—timing is key. When there’s a storm outside, there’s nothing you can do to stop it running its course. Our daughters and their moods are a little bit like this too.

When we get angry at their outburst, when we try to reason and rationalise with them when they’re in a heightened state, things tend to escalate.

When your daughter is mid-storm, stay calm. Allow her to go through what she’s going through and tell her you’ll talk with her about it once she’s calmed down. This shows her that you're exercising self-care, practising the pause and remaining calm.

If we react, we become part of the storm, so sit back, batten down the hatches and then be there to pick up the pieces after.

3. Allow for reflection

Once the storm has passed, and peace and harmony have been restored, find a time to have a quiet one-on-one session with your daughter. Reflect together on her behaviour. Ask her what she might do differently the next time she feels really frustrated or angry.

In my book, The Tween Mother’s Tool Book: Raising Strong Daughters, there is a section that can be filled in after an outburst. Helping our daughters develop their self-awareness is a really important part of them taking responsibility for their actions.

Nothing good comes out of anger, so it’s imperative that we only do this once the dust has well and truly settled.

4. Find creative ways to keep the communication channels open

As our daughters move through the tween years, they can become less forthcoming with us when it comes to how they’re feeling and the things that are going on in their lives.

When I first began teaching back in 2002, I had a small box in my classroom with note paper and a pen. Anything my students wanted to tell me about, but felt too embarrassed to say, they wrote on the paper and placed it in the box where they knew I would read it. I’ve continued this same idea with my daughter.

For the times she doesn’t want to talk to me but still wants me to know what’s going on for her, we have a communication book. When she’s used it, she leaves it on my bed and I can respond when I have time to give her my all. It’s the perfect way as our daughters head towards the teenage years to be there for them. In my book you will also find templates for different types of letters you can leave for her to find at various times in her life.

It's important to remember what it was like to be our daughter's age. No-one wants to feel frustrated and surly, but it’s a stage that will eventually pass. You just need to make sure you’ve got on a good storm jacket and that it’s waterproof!

Amanda Stokes is an educator, presenter, mother of three and founder of Raising Strong Daughters. Her new book, The Tween Mother’s Tool Book, is a practical, easy to use activity-based guide. Raisingstrongdaughters.com.au.