Advice for Navigating Tween Emotions with Grace

Need help with tween emotions in your house? Take a breather and gain some insight into parenting tween girls through this important transitional stage.

As a mom of three girls, I’ve experienced the full range of girl emotions – from the itty bitty baby years to the early teen years.  

And of course, being a girl myself, I can relate.

But even though as moms we’ve been there, it can be hard to really be there and understand what our girls are going through in the moment. 

I’m talking about the illogical, high-emotion episodes that we might refer to as girl drama.

Graphic with blonde tween girl with sunglasses standing in front of a brick wall, with text "Tween girl behavior: How to deal- with maturity and grace"

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Sometimes I can connect a stressor that is directly causing my daughter’s erratic behavior.

Other times, there is nothing I can pinpoint to account for the tears, the over-reaction…

… the “woe is me” attitude that can turn our household upside down in an instant.

How you Approach the Tween Years Matters

If you’re experiencing these same episodes, don’t panic.

Try not to roll your eyes.

And don’t run away, though it’s tempting.  I get it!

Making an attempt at understanding your tween daughter and her emotions is the key to having a better relationship with her.

Image of young daughter with arms around her mother, smiling.

Understanding tweens

Your daughter needs you even in her most illogical and frustrating moments.

Having the right approach and perspective on the tween years is important, as it is with every stage of parenting.

Understanding Your Tween daughter (and alll the girl drama)

The good news is, you don’t have to be a child therapist to manage these rough waters with your girls.

You just have to be willing to be her anchor.

Speaking from a Christian parenting perspective, I believe it’s important that we are anchored in Christ first!

Image of woman resting her chin on the spine of a Bible. Christian parenting concept.

We need a strong anchor, to be her anchor.

Parenting tween girls doesn’t have to be so stressful.

I promise!

Below are some tips that have helped me to understand and cope with girl drama in our household.

Read next:

1| Respond, Don’t React

Here’s a typical scenario you may have experienced with your daughter(s).

Maybe you’ve had a rough day yourself, and you pick your daughter up from school and IT BEGINS.

Before you can even get a “How was your day?” past your lips, she launches into a tirade about how she didn’t wear the right shoes for gym that day, the lunch you packed was awful and, by the way, she has NO friends.

Image of a young girl standing outside, frowning with her arms crossed; preteen emotions- handling girl drama

Another day, another (intense) emotion.

It’s what we would call “one of those days”, but in the mind of your young daughter, it’s the end of the world.

And from her perception, it’s all your fault.


Take a deep breath and choose empathy

It’s so easy to go on the defensive.

Even though we’re the adult, it’s bewildering to have the days’ worth of emotions piled squarely on your head for no good reason.

But it’s so important to take the high road here.

The more those tween emotions escalate, the calmer we need to become – for everyone’s sake.

If we can choose to respond instead of react in anger, we can be a catalyst in helping our daughters work through their feelings – and avoid adding fuel to the fire.

Image of mother and preteen daughter at breakfast table, with mother holding up her hand while explaining something to her daughter.

Empathy can change the atmosphere.

So instead of getting offended and telling her how she needs to “calm down” or worse, trying to convince her it really “isn’t that bad”, start with some empathy.

Practicing a new approach

Understanding your tween daughter better means you have to be the mature adult, first.

Choosing to be calm in the face of her fury of emotions will not be your gut reaction. It’s something we have to practice ahead of time.

Try this phrase instead:  “It sounds like you’ve had a rough day.  Why don’t you tell me some more?”

It’s perfectly ok to calmly remind her to be respectful as she proceeds to tell you all about it.

>>Want the printable, ad-free version of this post to refer to later? Get your copy here.

Navigating Tween Emotions ebook

2| Give Her Some Space

When you’re not getting anywhere by responding, even in empathy, the best thing you can do is simply give her some space to sort out her feelings and diffuse on her own.

When tween emotions are high and every positive response seems to have no effect, I will often suggest to my daughter that she takes a “little rest”.

I don’t want her to feel like I’m putting her in time-out, but sometimes resting and distracting herself from the seemingly mountainous problem(s) she’s facing is the only way around it.

Maybe you’ve noticed the same is true when you’re struggling emotionally?

Image of a daughter sitting in her room with arms on her knees; concept of parenting a tween girl: giving her space

Space to process is crucial.

There are times I’ve had to physically walk my daughter to her room and just repeat over and over, “Take five minutes and we’ll talk later.”

More often than not, when I go to check on her later, I’ll find her asleep in bed.

This leads to my next point.

3| Make Sure She’s Getting Enough Sleep

Sometimes I don’t know whether the emotional roller coaster itself wears her out or she simply needs to catch up on sleep.

Either way, it’s usually clear when one of my daughters just needs a nap after school – and I’m talking about my 9 and 12-year-old.

While we try to make sure we stick to a bedtime routine, I’ll be the first to admit that we often FAIL at this in our house.

Oftentimes, I’m catching up on work after dinner and the process gets started later than it should.

Or, my older daughter has ball practice, or we just stay up too late talking (which isn’t a bad thing).

But a shortage of Z’s can either create, contribute to, or exacerbate the perfect storm for my girls when those high-emotion moments (or days) hit.

tween bedtime - avoiding girl drama

Growing tweens need lots of sleep.

Who am I kidding – I can become a basket case pretty quickly myself, if I’ve been shorted on sleep for even a few days in a row!

My suggestion is to try starting the bedtime routine 30 minutes earlier than normal for a week or so.

See if this helps lessen the drama by the end of the day (I’m always surprised).

4| Spend Extra Time with Her

Whether it’s my one-year-old, nine-year-old, or my twelve-year-old – the girl drama is ALWAYS more intense when our schedules have been hectic and/or I haven’t been home as much as usual.

The same goes when my husband gets home late or is out of town for a few days.

Girls (and boys) of all ages just need time with their parents.

Image of African American family enjoying a dinner together- mother, father, preteen daughter and two teen daughters, smiling and laughing together.

Prioritize intentional connection.

Dinner time is a great time to connect and ask questions.

Take advantage of quiet times

And if you can start the earlier bedtime, that’s extra time you can spend when you really have your daughter’s full attention.

Kids can be pretty insightful and introspective when they’re sleepy and they know you’re listening, so be sure to take a few minutes to wind down with them at the end of the day.

Try not to rush through the bedtime routine.

It truly makes a difference in their attitude, at least in my experience.

Image of mother resting her chin on daughter's shoulder; concept of spending time with tween daughter

Set aside time for bedtime conversation.

Opportunities to dig deeper

When I’ve noticed a repeat pattern of high-emotion frustration, anger, and lashing out from one of my daughters –

-I try to consider what’s been going on in our lives and how that might affect how they’re behaving.

Hormones can play a BIG role especially in the 8-and-beyond years, so it’s entirely possible that there is really NOTHING you can attribute to your daughter’s erratic behavior.

Tween emotions- free lesson-Girls Created to Shine

It never hurts to think of ways you can spend more time with her; especially one-on-one time.

If nothing else, it will give her another opportunity to talk about what’s bothering her and maybe come to her own conclusions about how to cope with and understand her feelings.

It will also give you a chance to connect with your daughter and help her to put her frustrations into perspective, when she’s relaxed and more likely to open up.

5| Know & Utilize Your Strengths (and your spouse’s)

Some might disagree with me on this, but I think it’s important to delegate certain tasks when it comes to parenting roles.

My husband, while he has many other strengths – empathy and understanding in the midst of intense girl-drama is NOT one of them.  ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ve decided recently that, whenever possible, I’m the one who should talk to the girls in these high-emotion episodes, and he finds something else to do momentarily!

Image of tween girl sitting on couch with fingers in her ears and eyes closed with mother standing in front of her, exasperated and trying to reason with her daughter. Concept of tween discipline- de-escalating tween drama.

Know your strengths.

This simply leads to a better outcome.

Later, after the episode has passed, he’s good at debriefing with them (if needed).

Maybe you’re the calm one, or maybe your husband has that gift.  I think it’s wise to use your strengths to your advantage.

You definitely don’t want to tag-team an already-overwhelmed kid with two parents on totally different pages in how to approach them.

Trust me, it always ends badly!

Breaking negative patterns

I’m not going to sit on a pedestal here and tell you we do this perfectly every time in our house.

I’ve responded poorly so.many.times, and still do, unfortunately.

Image of girl with hand on hip with text: How to help you tween girl through roller coaster emotions (without losing your cool)

But looking back, I can see how yelling, negativity and piling up punishment over punishment really didn’t result in a calmer kid.

There is a time and a place for punishment, but it’s usually not when emotions are high- for everyone.

Learning how to deal with Girl Drama- with Grace

I have to keep in mind that my goal is to help guide my daughters through these emotions which are JUST as bewildering for them, and try to preserve our relationship for the future at the same time.

Read next: The Girl Power Message vs. our Identity in Christ

Growing up isn’t easy.  Girls and boys simply handle their feelings in different ways, and each pose their own challenges.

Image of brother and sister preteens side by side on living room floor, smiling with parents on couch in background.

Grace over perfection.

We won’t always have the magic words or the perfect solution that will dial down the girl drama instantly.

However, we can hope that our responses will convey the message that we’re here as a steady, trustworthy source of love and support no matter how out of control they may feel on the inside or act on the outside.

With God’s help, we can be that anchor our kids need us to be and someone they will turn to, no matter how big their problems seem at the time.

>>Printable, ad-free version of this post is available here.

You might also like:

Connecting with your Teen Daughter: The One Question to Ask

Sibling Rivalry (and our role as Christian parents)

50 Questions to Ask Your Kids to Grow Your Relationship and Their Faith

How to Get Kids to Listen Without Yelling – and End the Power Struggles

The Beauty of the Tween Years

5 Ways to Show Your Kids God’s Grace – When They’re Acting Like the Devil

*Originally posted 10/3/19, last updated 7/2/22.

Graphic with preteen girl's eyes looking upward at the bottom with text above "Understanding your tween girl - How to manage all.the.emotions with grace"

22 thoughts on “Advice for Navigating Tween Emotions with Grace”

  1. This was really helpful! Thank you so much! I feel like I already knew most of this but seeing it written out clearly really helps to give me a visual and some good wording that I can come back to later when emotions are high and thinking isn’t quite so rational!

    1. Hi Nicole! That’s the exact reason I wanted to write this, so I would remember these basic things myself when I’m not always so rational in the moment! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I love the idea that we need to be our daughtersโ€™ anchor just as we are anchored in Jesus! And yes, our response makes all the difference in our childrenโ€™s behavior. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Samantha Radford

    Thank you so much! I’ll be honest, my oldest daughter isn’t quite six and I feel like I’m already dealing with this moodiness. It’s true, as soon as I pick her up from school it’s like she’s disappointed to see me. It’s so frustrating!

    1. It IS frustrating isn’t it! Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to make it better except not get sucked into the moody wormhole and keep loving them anyhow ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
    We use that verse kind of like an attitude reset. Quoting it over and over really does calm the spirit and changes the heart. It helps in any situation of frustration or anger. I say it at least 5-10 times before I respond.

  5. Brandi, thank you SO much for sharing your insight. As a mother of 2 girl, ages 8 and 7, I sometimes struggle with handling day to day rollercoaster emotions. Though I feel like i do a decent job there is always room for improvement and this article is brilliant!

  6. Thank you for reminding me of my role. To help calm not fuel my daughters emotions when she is upset. My daughter has recently been coming home from school full of woes about upsetting friendship groups and ( in her words) too much drama. I find myself getting cross along with her as I remember having to deal with similar situations at her age. But your lovely guides have reminded me of my need at the time and now her need for an anchor. Thank you. God bless. Eddie x

  7. I LOVE this article! I also sincerely appreciate that you are the first to admit your weaknesses… It helps me feel like my struggles are normal. Sometimes I’m able to keep a cool head and sometimes my emotions get the best of me. Thank you for pointing your readers, like me, to the cross. And most of all, thank you for reminding us to keep calm in the midst of the drama. Keep up the good work!

  8. Hi,
    I’m the mother of three boys and one girl. She’s 8. I had no idea her mood swings and emotional rollercoasters were normal! I thought I was dealing with a potential mental/emotional issue like bipolar. Wow, thank you so much for writing this and helping me understand that 8 is a tween age and hormones are already at play. I really needed to know that this isn’t just her and it isn’t just me. Phew. I think your article has saved my family, and my daughter. Thank you for listening to inspiration from heaven and writing this.

    1. Very, very normal, and you will get through it ๐Ÿ˜‰ I know it’s tough in the middle of it – but it does help knowing all girl-moms will go through this on some level! Take care, Angela.

  9. This post was so meant for me to read today. My husband and I are both home all day with our 12 year old daughter. My husband is a self employed programmer and I am a stay at home mom who has homeschooled our daughter since she was 4 years old. She is almost 13 and has been giving us sob stories how life is so unfair. I am well aware that she is going through changes and I understand where she is coming from.

    Last week her dad was getting ready to go over to our Pastor’s house to work on our church’s website. My husband wanted her and I to go with him, but I just could not let our daughter go while she was in a total angry and honestly quite hateful mood. She was yelling at me after dad left the house, which I do not condone a child yelling at their parents at all what so ever. I sat her down at the kitchen table and let her yell at me while I listened to her tirade. Once she finished, I calmly asked her if she felt better? She said yes I do. I asked her if she would be willing to listen to me now? She said sure and I in a calm voice stated that her behavior has been very disrespectful and not allowed in our house. She immediately apologized to me. I asked her if she had any questions about what her dad and I expect of her in this house. She said no. Suddenly everything was diffused…Praise the Lord Above. I asked her if there was anything that I could help her with?
    She stated that she feels more comfortable talking to me about her emotional issues and that she dislikes it when dad steps in to try diffuse the situation. She told me that she feels that I am more understanding than dad. Once she said that to me, I had to ask her then why does she yell at me. She didn’t know why. I told her that even though she yells at me I know that she still loves me and I will always love her even in those difficult times. I told her that she should try to calm down and not yell at us. I also told her that she is still a child and she needs to listen to us both her dad and I. I told her that when she argues with us she is breaking one of Jesus’ commandments, which is a huge no no. I told her it makes God unhappy when his children are disobedient. She apologized again to me. I told her that I will be right by her side just like Jesus is there with her in everything she does. I told her that she is a good young lady but she really needs to try to stop yelling at me because it not only emotionally hurtful to me but it makes her Heavenly Father and unhappy. It is so much better to be able to have calm rational conversations with the unruly hormonal almost teenage girl. We finally have an understanding of what each of us should do. Being a mom to a teenage strong willed girl…my goodness is not easy sometimes. Jesus knew that I could handle this mom task for he is all knowing. Thank you for listening and providing this helpful post. Hope that you have a blessed day.

    1. I loved hearing your insight about listening to your daughter and her perspective on her own emotions. Sometimes just reflecting on the conversations that go RIGHT can give us confidence to handle future issues with wisdom. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  10. I have twins (boy/girl) and they are nine.

    Oh man, she is maturing and her behaviours are out of control. But here’s the thing โ€“ she’s still has a very young mind. She wants nothing to do with me in teaching her about her changing body. She never wants to brush her hair and this has become a big thing (I’ve tried all the things too).

    I keep telling myself it’s hormones…she’s probably going to get her period this summer…which is INSANE to think because she’s only 9 years old. But who knows? The biggest struggle is brushing her hair and her talking to me. I bought some books and hoping she will sit with me. I think spending 1:1 time is helping but only slightly. She is still in in prickly mood.

    I also talked to a girlfriend and her daughter and mine will have a playdate so hoping that things will calm down. I also think school is a big factor too in her behavior at home! Thanks for the tips.

    1. Just now seeing this comment! But yes, this is a hard age. Hormones, social interactions at school- it is hard to pinpoint exactly what to address and what to just ride out as part of puberty. My girls went through the poor hygiene stage too! I hope the play dates help. Sounds like it may be a good distraction and a safe outlet for her feelings with someone her age. Hang in there! ๐Ÿ™‚

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