They’re whiny, bitter and challenging. They slam doors without apology and throw tantrums for no apparent reason. They are pre-teen girls, and, while they rest on the cusp of womanhood, their mothers are often left wondering whether or not their once well-behaved daughters have digressed to age four.
Whether you call them monsters or adolescents, Tweens (pre-teens) are generally either chattering bundles of energy or lumps of depressed, soggy flesh. We’ve all been through the horror of hormones, but these poor souls have never before experienced the roller coaster before and jut jumped on, involuntarily, for a whiplash-inducing ride.
While you feel for your daughter, what’s a mother to do? You can commiserate with your increasingly independent daughter all you like. Ultimately, however, you’ll probably get pushed away by your Tween and frustrated by your failed attempts at communication. There are a few coping methods, though, to help both you and her through this difficult time that often tests the very fabric of families.
Be available, not invasive
It’s always important to be there for your daughter. Sit her frowny face down in a neutral setting and tell her that you won’t pry into her life, but if she ever wants to talk about anything, you’re there for her. Sometimes the best comfort a parent can offer is simply their unconditional support and love, whether or not it is utilized. It will make her feel better on those long nights when “everyone hates” her to know that you’re in the next bedroom over loving her as much as you ever have.
Part of this uncomfortable talk means keeping your promise to butt out. With the obvious exceptions of drugs, alcohol, unsafe sex and criminal behavior, stay out of her business as much as you can.
Reading a daughter’s diary is one of the most horrible things a mother can do. It is a complete breach of her trust and her privacy. While a girl’s pink, flimsily-locked, “Top Secret” journal may look inviting to any mother desperate to know what’s going on with her child, reading it will only make Mom feel guilty.
Also, if your daughter finds out that you discovered the intimate details of her life, not only will she find it hard to express her emotions in the future (since her former emotional outlet was made public by one of the people she trusts most), she will have a hard time rebuilding her trust in you. It is important to see the distinction between being involved in your daughter’s life and being intrusive.
If your daughter has decided to open up to you, pat yourself on the back: you have done a great job as a mom. For your pre-teen to feel comfortable enough in your relationship to tell you her problems shows that she respects your opinion and trusts you with her secrets.
Don’t compare yourself to her
When your daughter asks you for advice, try not to go into stories starting with any equivalent of, “Back in my dayÃ¢Â?Â¦” While the intention of such anecdotes is to identify with your daughter, the reverse usually occurs: she sees you as an old fart who couldn’t possibly understand what she is going through. Your tryst with Billy Jones behind the school gym when you were twelve isn’t anything like her current situation with Bobby Smith. There is nothing you can say that will convince her otherwise, so you might as well stop your story before it begins.
Let her ramble
Whether she’s happy or sad, once the floodgates open and your daughter is willing to open up to you, it’s likely that she’ll be hard to shut up. In this time in her life of such fragility and insecurity, it’s important to let her drone. Whether she’s telling you actually pertinent information about the problems she’s been having with her peers at school or she’s giving you the run-down on Justin Timberlake’s nostril hairs, let her have it out.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t tune her out to an extent. As a mother, you’ve probably honed this skill already. However, don’t indicate to her that you are bored or uncaring. She might easily clam up again and feel like you’ll never want her to share anything with you.
Let your Tween talk as much as she needs to talk, since it’s likely that her friends are all just as self-absorbed as she is and won’t be interested in listening to her problems. You are her outlet during this rough time, so be happy hat she trusts you enough to talk. Take solace in this the next time she details the mundane events of her lunch half-hour.
While there is no official guidebook on raising pre-teens, there are general guidelines that may help you survive that stage of life with your ever-changing daughter. Mainly, you have to be open, patient and an available ear to her whenever she needs you.
If you try your best to appreciate each new development in your daughter’s life instead of dreading the inevitable hormonal carnival ride, you’ll both be a lot happier. At least, you will be. She’ll probably hate you a few hours later.