Raising a Preteen Girl and Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster

With that said, I have found that there are definite differences for me between raising my now teenage son and my pre-teen daughter. I am very close to both of them, but in completely different ways. My son has always been a gentle giant, a very even tempered guy who is 6’4″ at age 15 and still growing. We share a love of reading, same tastes in movies and can talk about anything. My daughter and I are also very close, but there is constant confrontation in our relationship. This wasn’t always the case, however.

From the time my daughter was born she was attached to me. I worked at home at the time typing medical reports, and she literally was sleeping on my chest when she was three days old as I worked. There was an instant bond to the degree that she didn’t want anything to do with her dad until she was about six months old. She never wanted to leave my arms, and that developed into never wanting to leave my side as the years have passed. She is 12 now, and she still is by my side constantly, but now every day there seems to be some outburst of emotion that starts an argument between us. I found myself one day wondering how on earth I was going to get through all the turmoil between us and I decided to analyze the situation. What on earth could cause so much confrontation between a mother and daughter that were so very close?

I started by trying to pinpoint when all the fighting started. My best guess was that it started when she was a little more than 11years old. She was worrying about the things that most girls her age worried about; her appearance, her friends, her grades, etc. I then noticed that her degree of emotionality seemed elevated at certain times of the month. It was all coming back to me now. She was irritable, argumentative, listless, and completely down on herself. Of course, it had to be puberty setting in. It was so simple, or so I thought. I would ride it out until she started her period and then I would know when to expect her behavior to go to that bad place, and then things would go back to normal. Yeah, right.

What I neglected to put into the equation was that I, too, am a female. I am still a female who suffers from a week or two of hormones that wreak havoc on my moods. No wonder my daughter and I always seemed to be butting heads. If she wasn’t having issues one week, I was having them. This realization put me into complete stress mode. I don’t know if I’ve gotten out of that mode yet, but I’m desperately trying.

This new reality did explain another issue that my daughter was having with friends at school. I could never figure out why the groups of girls who were friends seemed to have so many arguments and issues between them. It was never that way with my son and his friends, and still isn’t. The guys just seem to hang out with their guy friends and just joke with one another. No real fighting to speak of. My daughter and her friends, well they could all fill up Dr. Phil’s show schedule for months. I think if you put a group of girls (or even women) together for any length of time they will find ways to fight about nothing eventually. That many hormones wreaking havoc at different times are bound to cause trouble.

There is also one more way that hormones play into this madness for pre-teen girls. It’s a four letter word and is probably every father’s worst nightmare……BOYS! When puberty begins so does the stress of boy craziness. As mothers we can all admit that we’ve been down that road. There comes a point when pre-teen girls think primarily about two things….their appearance and boys. Many times they think about these two things simultaneously, worrying about whether or not their appearance will attract a certain boy. Parents don’t ever want to get to this point in their child’s lives, but it’s inevitable. My husband has always said our daughter won’t be allowed to date until she’s 30. He’s also said that our 6’4″ son will always be around to keep the boys away from his sister. This is all well and good, but as a logical person who was once a pre-teen girl herself I realize that “dating” isn’t always necessary to find time to spend with boys. So what is a parent to do about all this?

Once I realized what I was dealing with I thought about the best ways to handle the constant fighting. The best I can say is that the utmost patience and understanding need to be applied, with the right mix of discipline and mutual respect. Where part of me has a great deal of understanding of what my daughter is going through, I also need to remember how important it is to teach her not to be disrepectful and remember how important it is to stay close to your family. I need to let her express her feelings but I terminate any conversation that escalates into shouting or disrepectfulness in any way. If that happens I tell her to go to her room and take some time to think before she says something she’ll regret or can’t take back. I always try to stay calm on my end because any outburst from me is telling her it is okay to do the same. The hardest part for me, as a mother, is to not let my own emotions take over during a fight. It’s hard enough if she starts crying, but if I do it just affects her more and then we both fall apart. I never send her to her room without telling her that I love her and I’m not mad, but that we just need some time to ourselves to calm down before we continue. It’s a struggle, but it works in the end.

As far as the boy craziness is concerned, once it arrives it will be there for a long time. I’ve been there and I know this to be true. Nothing a parent can say will make it go away so it is best to just chalk it up to puberty and set definite rules about dating and relationships far in advance. Every parent will have a different idea of when it would be okay for their child to begin dating. No one can tell you what the “right” age is in my opinion because that is a very personal thing. If you are a two-parent household then I think this should be discussed early on with one another and then with your daughter when you know that puberty has set in. She needs to know the rules long before she tries to figure out how to break them. Single parents will need to set the rules early also and probably re-enforce them often.

Lately I wake up wondering what small thing is going to trigger a discussion between my daughter and me. It could be so trivial that it would make most people laugh, but I need to be prepared for anything. In the end, my job as a mother right now is the toughest job I’ve ever had. Regardless, I love my children and I wouldn’t miss a second of it.

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