The tween and teen years can transform your calm, easygoing daughter into an emotional mess! One minute she’s excited about tomorrow, and the next she’s stressed and insecure. She’s lively and cheerful with her own friends, yet quiet and standoffish with yours. She’s eager to fill up her day with new activities in the morning, but shuts down and closes herself in her room by dinner. Your daughter’s emotions and attitude can change without warning. As her mom or dad, how do you handle your daughter’s big feelings? Here are seven do’s and don’ts as we ride the roller coaster of our daughters’ emotions:
DO: See the big picture.
Our girls are in the process of growing to maturity—they don’t have it all figured out yet. It’s tempting to expect our young women to think and behave like adults, but if we remember that “foolishness is firmly attached to a child’s heart” we can give them grace. (Proverbs 22:15 GW) In time they’ll become less reactive to little things. They will come to understand the cause and effect of their choices. Maturity will bring the self-control that’s missing right now. They’ll become less self-focused, realizing they’re not the center of the world. Have patience and trust that the sensitive, unpredictable girl in front of you is on her way to growing up.
DON’T: Belittle your daughter’s big feelings.
Even when your daughter’s emotions seems irrational, her distress is real. Criticism, shame, or teasing will only deepen her struggle and intensify her feelings. By giving her room to feel angry, anxious, or just ‘down’, she’ll learn it’s okay to be authentic. She’ll avoid the pitfall of putting on a fake smile to please other people. You’ll build trust between you as she discovers you’re a patient listener and a compassionate shoulder to cry on. By honoring your daughter’s emotions–no matter how hard they are to understand–you affirm her worth and her voice.
DO: Stay steady in the storm.
Your daughter’s big feelings don’t have to stir up anxiety or anger in you. Let go of any guilt or pressure to “fix it.” Avoid the trap of self-blame and an unhealthy dependence on her happiness for your own. Pray for strength to live by God’s Word so you can be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) When your last button has been pushed or she’s stepped on your very last nerve, give yourself permission to step away for a break. Take your daughter’s struggle as an opportunity to grow in your own coping skills and prayer life. As you stay calm, you offer a peaceful respite in the middle of her stormy emotions.
DON’T: Relax your house rules.
When emotions run high, your daughter doesn’t get a free pass to slam doors, smack her brother, or disrespect you. Skipping school, homework, or chores on a rough day will only compound her anxiety in the end. Damaged relationships or property from the fallout of her temper will leave her more alone and stressed than if she honored your house rules. Keep her present for family activities and church attendance. Continue expecting her to contribute to your household, and hold your boundaries around her use of screens and social media. Stand firm in your expectations so her feelings don’t rule her–or your family’s–life.
DO: Show compassion.
Look for ways to give comfort and reassurance. Show empathy with words like, I know this is hard. I can see you’re frustrated. I’m sorry you’re hurting right now. This doesn’t change how much you’re loved. Bring back the habit of tucking her in at night with prayer and a hug. Build one-on-one time into your schedule to have fun and take a break from the stress. Encourage self-care with gifts of bubble bath, a cute journal and pen, and fuzzy slippers. Post uplifting Bible verses on her bathroom mirror and place encouraging notes in her lunchbox. Greet her with warm brownies or invite her for a walk after a rough day. Take every opportunity to put on “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” as you “bear with” your daughter’s difficult emotions. (Colossians 3:12-13)
DON’T: Ignore her physical well-being.
Fatigue and poor nutrition make it hard for any of us to cope. Hormonal fluctuations through the month impact your daughter’s energy and outlook. Build in time for sleeping in, home-cooked meals, and enjoying the outdoors. If needed, show a little tough love by paring down the busyness of her schedule so she can rest. Provide a good-quality water bottle and healthy grab-and-go snacks to keep her hydrated and avoid “hangry” meltdowns. Stay current on checkups with her doctor. A healthy body will support a healthy emotional life, too.
DO: Pursue help if she shows signs of self-destructive or risky behavior.
Overwhelming stress, insecurity, and anger can impact a child’s mental health and ability to cope. Dig a little deeper to find out if your daughter is suffering from bullying or frightening, traumatic events. Utilize safeguards for her phone and social media activity. Loop in teachers who can share their own observations of your daughter’s moods and behavior. Take your concerns about anxiety or depression, addictions or self-harm, or eating disorders to professionals who can provide targeted help for healing. You and your daughter don’t have to go it alone–build a support system around your daughter so she can thrive.
Take heart in knowing God cares for your daughter with grace and kindness. He’ll give you all you need to handle your daughter’s big feelings with love. Cover her in prayer each day, trusting him to see her through.
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
For You, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
(Originally posted at Whatever Girls)
To pray for every detail of your daughter’s life, Powerful Prayers for Your Daughter will help you lift her up!
Thanks for sharing this it’s so needed!
Thanks for posting this! I have three daughters, 6, 3 and 2. We are just getting into the elementary school days with our oldest, but she’s always had big emotions. I forwarded this to my husband as well 😉 Thanks Joanna!
You’re so welcome! We have three daughters, too, and it’s taken much prayer and practice to learn how to come alongside them in their emotions. Still learning, but God is faithful. 🙂
I’m going to need this valuable advice in a couple years. My oldest daughter is eight, and I know it is so important to remember that they too are little adults, with real feelings. Thank you for writing this.
Thank you for this practical and encouraging post! You really bring the focus back to the important things, which is exactly what is needed!