6 Tips for Managing an Emotional and Dramatic Not Quite Teenager
My current struggle and most researched topic these days is how to cope with a very sensitive and emotional elementary aged child. My 7 year old daughter has always been extremely sensitive but over the last few months has developed, what I feel is, an unhealthy and abnormal scene of anxiety and depression.
From birth she has struggled with a slight speciation anxiety issue, but recently our day to day lives have included numerous panic attacks. They can range from not wanting to brush her teeth to wondering if we (mom and dad) know the way back home from wherever we might be. It would not be uncommon for an evening in our home to include a complete emotional meltdown while working on her homework with her or asking her to take her shoes to her room. A morning is usually not any better with her unwillingness to get up and get ready or decide what she wants for breakfast. Now I know decisions can be difficult at this age so I do my best to make them minimal but alleviating them al together also puts her in a tailspin.
My first instinct was that it was just a new phase. I talked to some friends and relatives about it and came to the conclusion that it was not just a phase. Then I thought she must not be getting enough one on one attention from me. So, I started concisely making every attempt I could do make time for just her and I to spend “quality time” together. While we both enjoyed the time nothing was changing in her behavior.
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Seeing that this is undoubtedly not normal, I have done a great deal of research. What I have found has been very interesting and enlightening. The tips that I have found to be the most helpful include:
5 Love Languages of Children – Gary Chapman and
In hopes of understanding how to love her so that she felt loved I read this book. It was recommended to me by a friend and I was amazed by what I discovered. Having her take the short test, which I read the random questions to her more as a game, placed her in a love language that I would never have guessed. Once I discovered this I was able to show her love and affection in a way that meant more to her.
The Care and Keeping of You– American Girl
This is a great starting point when discussing what a young girls body is going through. I introduced this to my daughter first (after reading through it myself). My goal here was to help her understand that what she was feeling was more normal than the realizes due to the changes her body is going through. I also wanted her to see that it was not just her feeling this way, her friends are going through similar feelings as well.
Feelings – American Girl This is an awesome book that talks about what “Feelings” actually feel like. It has served as a conversation started many times for us and given my daughter a starting point when trying to explain why she is upset. I tend to make the false assumption that she is in the same mainframe as I am which is absolutely incorrect. Keeping this book at hand has benefited both of us.
I have created a family command center allowing our days to be planned and consistent. We have a calendar that lists every family member and events that we each have going on. I have also created a Family Binder so that school lunch menus and activities, rules and consequences, chores and rewards are all easily accessible to her. I am also working on a dinner / summer lunch menu to include which will include items she can help prepare. Lastly, I created a Good Morning Task List and a Goodnight Task List. Both of my daughters have one and each is unique to them. We have them hanging in their rooms so that it is clear what is expected of them and no need to argue over getting ready.
This is a simple plush animal that has a zipper for a mouth and holds your child’s worries. They can literally write down the worry and place it inside the Worry Eaters mouth and zip it up. The Worry Eater “eates “the worry which takes it away. It really is a neat concept and has working for my daughter. She places them inside and I check it every day or two so that I can see what has been upsetting her. When she checks the mouth and sees that they are go it is a huge relief for her as well.
This is something that I was not sure I wanted to purse. I as a mother felt that I should be able to help my own daughter through this emotional transition. Well after many days and nights struggling to understand what the problem was, I broke down and made the appointment. So far it has gone well and given her an outlet outside of the family. I have also agreed to some behavior testing due to family history and a recommendation from our pediatrician.
I will share more on our journey through this tough age. In the meantime, I hope my recommendations are helpful to those of you struggling with similar emotional situations. Please feel free to share your tips and tools. I’d love to hear from you!