There are a lot of transformations that occur during the tween and teen years. Many of the emotional changes begin as early as eight or nine, long before the physical signs of adolescence. Tweens can become confused and overwhelmed during these beginning stages. They often have difficulty coping with these emotional changes that occur so abruptly.
As parents, we know what it is to experience these feelings, but it can be hard to explain these changes to your young tween in a concise way.
Cognitively, tweens are still developing the abstract thinking that will be the hallmark of their teen and adult years. In the early part of the tween years, your child may need descriptions that are short, concrete and involve imagery to help them develop an understanding of their rapidly changing emotional life. If tweens have a better understanding of their inner life, they may be able to express what they are experiencing. Being able to communicate their experiences results in a decrease in the normal anxiety that accompanies adolescence.
There are many ways to explain the emotional changes that occur during the early tween years. The important elements of these descriptions are that they are short, concrete and emphasize that this is a normal transition.
Listed below are two ways that we use to describe these changes to tweens:
- Volcano: “Emotions are always there under the surface. Sometimes they erupt, either from a sudden change or a change that builds up slowly. This is the way things are supposed to happen. It doesn’t last forever and we can work on ways to help control the eruptions.” Continuing with the analogy, you ask your child: “What are things that can prevent your volcano from erupting? What can calm you down once there is an eruption?
- Simple Brain explanation: “Your brain is rewiring and building into an adult brain. Since your brain is under construction, it isn’t working as efficiently as it will in the future. It can get easily overwhelmed because isn’t as strong as it will be. When it becomes overwhelmed the emotional part of your brain takes over.” Continuing with the analogy, you can ask your child: “What are things that can prevent your brain from becoming overwhelmed? What can calm you down once you are overwhelmed?”
When teaching tweens how to prevent difficulty and find solutions for emotions that have run wild, you can include talking or sharing your feelings with trusted people, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, getting plenty of exercise, writing in a journal, and doing something artistic.
Car Thought (something to ponder as you shuttle your kids about): What was it like for you emotionally when you were at the beginning of adolescence? Do you see any similarities with your child?
Tell us about the awkward ways your parents explained puberty to you.