Give your moody preteen some grace. They are living a life that is completely different from what we knew growing up.
They are learning how to deal with the pressures of social media, online bullying, and what seems like an endless amount of advice (good and bad) about who they should be, sound like, or look like.
It seemed like the toddler years lasted forever, but somehow I woke up to a preteen.
And I’ll be honest. I wasn’t prepared. I spent 7 years as a middle school counselor and 2 as a high school counselor. I loved working with teenagers despite their drama.
I moved back down to working with elementary-aged kids because I wanted to spend more time with my children. Working in middle (and especially high school) means that there are so many mandatory after-school (and even before school commitments) commitments like being a club advisor, chaperoning dances, or even committee meetings.
Plus working with teenagers means BIG emotions over breakups, family dynamics, teacher disagreements, and so many more things.
I got accustomed to attitudes and helping students sort through the big stuff.
Most people say that they would rather do anything else than work with middle schoolers, but I loved my time with them. When I first went back to being an elementary school counselor, my daughters were still little. I told people all the time that it was preparing me for the teen years.
But guess what? I still wasn’t ready.
My oldest is 11 and in the 6th grade. Because I know the things she will encounter and the issues that middle schoolers have, I do my best to be proactive in conversations with her.
Conversations about sex, sexual identity, boundary conversations, turning in assignments, and all the other things kids her age may have concerns about.
I do my best to be open-minded while setting boundaries. But sometimes she’s still moody.
Here are a few things you can do if you are dealing with a moody preteen:
Don’t take it personally
Being a parent is a hard job. We often reflect on the issues we’re having with our kids and think that it’s our fault that something isn’t clicking. It’s okay to raise your kids differently than how you were raised.
Your preteen doesn’t know how to express what they’re feeling
We focus so much on feeling words with toddlers. Why? Because when they have big emotions, it usually manifests as a tantrum–an epic meltdown that gets everyone’s attention.
Big kids get moody. They snap at their siblings. They crave alone time. They cry. They snap at you.
Reassuring them that everyone has hard days, but giving them a safe place to express their feelings is a good way to teach them how to express their emotions in a healthy way.
Your preteen needs some extra attention/affection
Big kids need hugs too. Just because they spend more time in their rooms or talking to their friends, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need love from you. They might not ask for a hug like they did when they were little, but it still means so much to them for you to show it in a tangible way.
So give yourself some grace. Preteens are trying to figure out who they are AND navigate life simultaneously. They have different pressures than we had growing up.
Remind them that you will always be there and know that the fact that you are trying is a step in the right direction.