More and more frequently I’m facing new challenges as a mom of a pre-pre-teen daughter. She’s our oldest and has always been a beautiful, graceful, mature child. (I jokingly add in the extra “pre” because age 10 seems a little young to use pre-teen as a term to define her age group.) Nonetheless, her body and mind are changing, and I’m learning to approach her transitions with sensitivity and a whole lot of patience.
What is happening here?
The changes have been subtle: she’s stretching out some, her appetite has adjusted slightly, she’s more conscious of clothing and fit. She can be playful and silly with her friends but can quickly switch to eye-rolls and shrug-off her less mature siblings and their antics. She’s stuck in the sticky middle ground between childhood and teenage-hood and some days are just hard. I have noticed heightened levels of frustration over very simple decisions or situations, moodiness (of course), and emotional reactions to selecting preferences over dinner. As a busy mom with lots of plates swirling in the air, it is sometimes hard to remain patient and appropriately navigate these moments.
Reminding myself of the lessons
One of the best things I did was attend a “Growing Up for Girls” class sponsored by Children’s Hospital about two years ago with a few other mom friends and their daughters. There are several other parenting centers and hospitals that offer similar classes, so check out availability in your area. The nurse that hosted the class was amazing; she was so personal and professional about the topics covered (body changes, anatomy, menstrual cycles), but warm and funny enough to entertain the girls. She was perfect. The two major takeaways I had from the class were: 1) Puberty is a six-year transition period. It’s a slow progression and involves growth and hormone changes of wide variety over many years. It’s not quick, and I should expect it to set in for a while. 2) The assigned phrase of “big feelings” that she used to explain days when we feel slightly off, sad, frustrated, or upset for no reason. This one was huge for me, and I even use it with my adult friends when we are having a rough day. I have been able to use the coined term with my daughter to assign the emotions that seem unexplainable and come out of nowhere. It’s been so helpful to give it a name!
Talking it out
I haven’t found any magic approach to communicating with my daughter, but I have tried to slow it down, have a lot more patience, and find opportunities to talk to her in private about what’s going on. I make sure to ask her to explain what she’s feeling as best as she can, to let me know if there is something wrong or if she’s just have a “big feelings” day. I remind her that I’m here to listen even if she doesn’t have the words to define what’s going on. I try to give her space to be alone and then encourage her to socialize when I think she needs it. We attempt to stay active and have fun things to look forward to. I also call my mom often to seek advice and to be reminded that I, too, went through this phase.
If you’re experiencing pre-pre-teenage-hood with your daughter, know that you aren’t alone and that many of us are treading cautiously into new territories with growing minds, changing bodies, and temperamental hormones. Currently we are stuck in the middle, but time is fleeting, and we’ll look back on this time and wish we had more time with our girls at this age.