No longer a little girl but not quite a teenager, those ‘tween’ years – from about nine to twelve years of age – can be a difficult time for you and your daughter. Your daughter’s body is changing, and hormones that were dormant are beginning to surface At this age, your daughter will become very concerned about her appearance and about what others think of her. She will also become aware of how she fits into (or how she feels she doesn’t fit into) her peer group. This mix of hormones and self-awareness can turn your sweet little girl into a moody child who often talks back, if she talks at all.
How can you ensure when you make it through those tween years you still have a strong bond with your daughter?
Jane Buckingham encourages parents to allow their tween girl to be moody but not disrespectful. What is the difference between the two? Not talking when your tween is in a bad mood is okay, but talking back is not. Set strict rules and stick to them. Give her space to brood at times, but don’t stand for disrespect.
Keep the lines of communication open with your tween. While you will want to give her space, and she will likely request space more than she did when she was younger, you should also make her know you are there to listen when she needs to talk. And you want her to talk, says Tina Meier, just as you want to respond by validating her feelings. This will require you to slow down and listen carefully to what she has to say. While her problems may not seem big to you, they are the world to her. When your tween finishes speaking, validate the way she feels. Saying, “I understand why that upsets you,” shows your daughter that you have listened.
Jodi King recommends scheduling together time. This might be a weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market or an unplanned trip for a pedicure. These low-pressure trips show your tween you love her and want to spend time with her. They also open up opportunities to bond. If she sees that you are truly interested in who she is as a person and what she has to say, she is more likely to share her problems and worries with you.
Dr. Melissa Johnson suggests using informal ways for opening up the lines of communication, such as books and movies. If you view a program or read a book together, you can then talk about how the character felt or why the character reacted in a certain way. Because this is done in a relaxed setting, and the questions aren’t directed at your daughter, you are able to connect without putting your tween on the spot. (If you want to touch upon certain subjects, ask the youth librarian at your local library for book recommendations based on that subject.)
Finally, try to keep in mind that though these tween years can be stressful, they are a phase, like many other parent/daughter phases you’ve survived. It was likely you thought you wouldn’t make it through colic or the infamous ‘no’ phase, but you did, and both you and your daughter came out the other end stronger. You will survive the tween years, too. (We promise!)