Hormones. Ugh. As women, we are all too familiar with these pesky parts of biology and the havoc they cause in our lives. We have all found ourselves crying over a minor inconvenience or blowing up at a small frustration and then wondering what had gotten into us. Even though we have experienced the highs and lows of female hormones our entire lives, it can be a huge challenge to figure out how to help our daughters navigate the moods and emotions of puberty. There are huge changes going on in your daughter’s body, and the hormone surges can leave you both feeling helpless about how to cope. If you find yourself wondering how to get through this volatile transition, here are some tips:
It’s not her (or you), it’s the hormones.
When you find yourself the target of your daughter’s emotional explosions, remember not to take it personally. Despite what her words or actions may imply, this has very little to do with you. She is feeling completely overwhelmed by chemicals in her body that she has no ability to calm. Remind yourself to recognize that her behavior may be difficult for her to control or even understand. What your daughter is doing is normal and something all girls (and their mothers) experience.
Focus on empathy and grace
Many tween and teen girls are as surprised as their parents at their behavior and often can’t even rationalize why they are upset. Have you ever lost it with someone or said things in a heated moment that you later regretted? Of course. We all have! Before you enter punishment mode during your daughter’s outburst, allow the dust to settle. Once both parties have had time to calm themselves, you can productively discuss what happened and give her some strategies for coping when she feels like flying off the handle again. For example, if back-talk is a problem, step away (and have her step away as well) for five minutes before continuing the conversation instead of engaging in the argument. If she is teary, try a hug before rolling your eyes. This is new territory for you both, so it may take some time to figure out how to navigate this new relationship dynamic. Empathy and grace will go further in calming your girl’s frazzled feelings than adding to the frenzy with your own fervent response.
Teach coping skills
Although the intense hormone surge of puberty will eventually subside, mood swings and strong emotions are here to stay. It is important now to teach her coping skills to help her deal with things in a healthy way. First, let her know it is okay and normal to feel waves of intense feelings. Explain what is happening in her body that is causing these extremes and ensure her that you are on her side to help figure out ways to deal with them. Share personal stories of your own experiences with this to help her see she isn’t crazy and that we all experience this. Then, together you can find a calming technique that appeals to her, such as taking a walk around the block, counting backward from twenty, or listening to calming music. Be sure to model healthy coping skills for your own feelings as well!
Encourage a healthy lifestyle
We all know how much harder it is to keep a handle on ourselves when we are overtired or run down! Sleep is extra important at this age, so try to ensure your daughter gets at least nine hours of sleep each night. Set up parameters and timeframes for phone and social media usage and stick to them, as extensive tech time is known to cause more problems with emotional regulation. Try to provide healthy foods and meals. You can even include her in grocery shopping and meal planning to show her how to make healthy choices for life.
Be respectful of her space
Some girls get incredibly embarrassed when discussing hormones, puberty, or anything related to their development. While some conversations are essential, do not force the issue, and try to be sensitive to her feelings. For example, instead of bringing up her last emotional outburst for discussion at the dinner table in front of her dad and older brother, have a calm conversation before bed when the lights are out, and she can avoid eye contact. The point is to meet her where she is and try to communicate in a way that works for your daughter. Remember that she is likely just as bewildered as you at her behaviors, and she may even be ashamed or embarrassed by her feelings. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT blame every display of emotion on hormones or make a joke of it. Validate what she is feeling and truly listen to what she is expressing (even if it seems completely overdramatic and irrational). The intensity of what she is feeling is very real to her, and you don’t want to make yourself an unsafe place by disregarding her feelings or embarrassing her by passing it off on hormones.
Remember that this too shall pass
While difficult to endure, many tweens and teens get through this phase relatively quickly, though it may take longer for others. Remember that, like everything in parenting, this season will be over before you know it. Although the mood swings of this stage can leave you exasperated, they can also be the gateway to teaching healthy coping skills, respectful communication, and deeper connection as your relationship begins to shift, and your child enters into a new era; young adulthood. This new stage reveals the incredible transformation of your daughter into a strong, capable, and mature young woman. It is worth every minute of chaos those dramatic adolescent years put you through!