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Help Your Tween Deal with Volatile Emotions

It's normal for tweens to have mood swings, here's how to help.

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Daughter with fingers in ears as father scolds
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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. Here's how to help your tween manage her mood swings.

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 whose 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 Her 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 she complains about having too much to do, it might be time to remove an activity or two from her schedule. See if a lighter load of commitments helps her adjust her mood and balance her day. You might find that her mood swings disappear when she has more free time to herself.

Make Sure She's 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 bed time. 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 her room, such as a TV or a computer, that might be responsible for keeping her up. If your tween's favorite television program interferes with her rest, tape the show so 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 she needs. If you're concerned about your tween's diet, discuss the situation with her pediatrician, and ask if she needs vitamin supplements.

Sometimes mood swings occur when children experience low-blood sugar. In fact, mood swings may often be a sign that your child isn't getting the nutrition she needs.

Give Her a Break

Does your tween have time everyday to relax and enjoy the day? Does she take the time to read, journal, or hang-out with you or other family members? Tweens, like adults, need time to "chillax." Schedule her down time into the family calendar, just as you would her soccer time or her piano lessons.

Let Her 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 hangout with 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 her schedule.

Offer Fun Family Time

Your tween may be making a lot of friends, but it's important that 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 She's 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 sport activity, be sure she spends time walking, bicycling, skateboarding, or engaged in other non-competitive sports. A walk around the neighborhood after dinner can help keep her in shape, and if you walk together it provides opportunity for the two of you to catch-up with one another.

Get Her 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 she have concerns. Be sympathetic and help her problem solve. Be optimistic with your tween, and offer-up solutions to her problem. And give her time to get over whatever is concerning her. Sometimes a little time works wonders.
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