Preteens, also referred to as tweens, have a lot going on both physically and emotionally. Many preteens go through puberty, a process which often causes mood-altering hormonal changes.
During this time, many tweens are still expected to attend school, participate in sports, and help with household chores. Combine these changes and expectations with the fact that 1 out of 8 kids have anxiety, a condition that causes fear and uneasiness, and it’s easy to see why the preteen years can be stressful. Review the tips below so that you can effectively discuss stressful situations with your preteen without coming across as uncompassionate or judgmental.
Ask, Don’t Assume
Many parents unintentionally act as if they know their preteens better than their preteens know themselves. Anytime you have a conversation with your preteen, whether it’s a quick chat or a lengthy heart-to-heart, don’t make assumptions about how she thinks, feels, or behaves. Ask her open-ended questions rather than questions that require a simple yes or no, and then listen when she answers. Don’t talk over her or say that she’s wrong; let her share her opinions or experiences during a judgment-free chat session.
Unsure whether you make assumptions? Here are some common statements parents make:
- – I know you’ve been stressed lately.
- – All kids your age want a boyfriend or girlfriend, so I know you like someone.
- – If I walk upstairs right now, I’m sure I’ll find your bed unmade and your clothes everywhere.
- – I know you probably hate me right now, but…
These statements make assumptions about your preteen’s thoughts or actions. Instead of beginning a sentence with “I know,” try saying “I feel” instead. Also, avoid projecting your own childhood experiences on your preteen with statements like “All kids your age…”. Your tween may feel that you are implying they are lying or hiding things, which can create additional stress. It may also make them worry that they are failing to do normal activities that other preteens do.
Choose the Right Time
Family meals may seem like an excellent time to discuss stressors because everybody is in one place at the same time. However, your preteen may feel uncomfortable talking about her problems in front of everyone. You may also prefer to reserve mealtimes for fun, casual topics such as weekend plans or popular TV shows instead of addressing heavy topics.
If your preteen has a busy schedule, squeeze in time to chat before bed or during car rides to school or social commitments. You can also take your child out for some one-on-one time and chat over ice cream or milkshakes. Ask your tween what works for them and then plan something together.
Offer Potential Solutions Cautiously
Sometimes your tween simply needs a compassionate ear while she vents about a temporary problem. Other times, she may be battling an ongoing source of stress and want you to offer potential solutions. Things like peer pressure, low self-esteem, academics or a big move can all cause stress in a child’s life. Verbally offer potential solutions if you think your teen might be receptive to them or benefit from them. If not, consider leaving a journal, squishy ball, or meditative CD on her bed so that she can tackle feelings of stress on her own terms.
Tweens who want help with their stress can try yoga, deep breathing techniques, or visualizations. You can also take steps to eliminate stressors from your child’s life rather than just teaching her how to cope with them. For example, if she’s stressed because of a bully at school, you can speak with the principal and help put a stop to the situation. If she’s upset because a friend isn’t speaking to her, you can help her analyze the argument and determine whether to apologize or give the friend space.
If your tween internalizes stressful situations, she may become depressed or anxious. Encourage her to talk about what’s on her mind by utilizing the suggestions above.