Help Your Tween Deal With Volatile Emotions

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If your tween's mood fluctuates like a barometer, it's probably nothing to worry about. Tweens and mood swings just go together. In fact, it's perfectly normal for tweenagers to scroll through a variety of emotions, all in one day. 

But that doesn't mean it's easy to live with a child who is pleasant one moment, and grumpy the next. Getting through the day (and the next few years) with a moody tween is a challenge for any parent, but you will need to improve and work on your patience. Here's how to help your tween manage mood swings so that you can also keep yours under control.

Be Understanding

It's no secret that tweens have a variety of challenges facing them. Puberty, middle school, social problems, homework, and scores more. In addition, your tween's body and brain are growing at a rapid pace, and that can be confusing to a child who's not ready for change, or unsure about what all those changes mean. Be understanding when your tween's mood swings surface, and try to remember how difficult things were for you when you were going through your own tween years.

Lighten Their Load

Tween schedules are loaded with responsibilities. From school work to extra-curricular activities, many tweens run from one commitment to another without a break.

If your tween's schedule seems unusually busy, or if he or she complains about having too much to do, it might be time to remove an activity or two from the schedule.

See if a lighter load of commitments helps your tween adjust his or her mood and balance the day. You might find that mood swings disappear when your tween has more free time. 

Make Sure They're Sleeping

Tweens need at least nine hours of sleep a night, but many aren't getting that much. See to it that your tween has ample time at night to transition from a busy day to bedtime.

Set a scheduled bedtime for weeknights and weekends.

Make sure your tween is getting the recommended amount of sleep per night (even on weekends), and remove any devices from your child's room, such as a TV or a computer, that might be responsible for keeping your tween up at night. If your tween's favorite television program interferes with rest, tape the show so he or she can watch it another time.

Offer Nutritious Foods

Tween bodies are changing by the day, and they need nourishment to fuel those changes. Make sure you offer plenty of nutritious snacks (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, high-calcium foods) and make a point of having a family dinner together at least twice a week. Chuck junk foods or any other foods that don't provide your child with the nourishment he or she needs. If you're concerned about your tween's diet, discuss the situation with your pediatrician, and ask if your child needs vitamin supplements.

Give Them a Break

Does your tween have time every day to relax and enjoy the day? Does he or she take the time to read, journal, or hang-out with you or other family members? Tweens, like adults, need time to "chillax." Middle school can be demanding and the added pressures of homework, friendship challenges, and challenges at home can be more than your tween can handle. Schedule downtime into the family calendar, just as you would schedule soccer time or piano lessons.

Let Your Tween Chill with Friends

Friendships are very important to tweens, and tweens need their own social circle outside the family. Sometimes mood swings can be stopped or prevented by a simple visit or a phone call from a friend.

It's important for tweens to feel accepted by their peers and to have the security of knowing that they have friends at school, on athletic teams, and in other important areas of their lives.

Make sure your tween is developing good friendships and has time to hang out with his or her friends frequently.

Sleepovers are a great way for tweens to bond with their friends, and make new ones. If your child is too busy to find time to spend with friends, it might be time to rearrange schedules.

Offer Fun Family Time

Your tween may be making a lot of friends, but it's important that he or she maintains a close relationship with you as well. Be sure your family plans monthly family outings, or schedule some one-on-one time with your tween to go to a movie, take a class, or enjoy other activities. Spending time with you could be just what your tween needs, and you'll enjoy it, too.

Make Sure Your Tween is Exercising

Exercise is an important part of every day, and growing tween bodies are especially in need of exercise to keep them strong and give them the stamina they need to face their busy days and the teen years ahead. If your child doesn't participate in a sports activity, be sure he or she spends time walking, bicycling, skateboarding, or engaged in other non-competitive sports. A walk around the neighborhood after dinner can help keep your tween in shape, and if you walk together it provides an opportunity for the two of you to catch up with one another.

Get Your Child to Open Up

Sometimes tweens exhibit mood swings because there is something going on in their lives that is stressful. It could be a fight with a good friend, a problem at school, or something going on at home. Be sure you allow your tween the opportunity to open up to you, should he or she have concerns. Be sympathetic and help problem solve. Be optimistic with your tween, and offer up solutions to problems. And give your child time to get over whatever is concerning. Sometimes a little time works wonders.

1 Source
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics Supports Childhood Sleep Guidelines.

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.