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Parenting Tips for When Your Tween Has a Meltdown

Having parenting tips for when your tween has a meltdown can help both you and your tween. These tips will help you prevent and deal with tween meltdowns.

When your tween has a meltdown, chances are you could use some practical parenting tips for handling your pre-teen and their behavior. It can be shocking to witness a meltdown in a 9-12 year-old. After all, aren’t they too old for such behavior? As you’ll see, they’re just the right age for emotional meltdowns. Meltdowns are difficult for these middle schoolers (and upper elementary schoolers), and they’re not exactly easy for parents. These parenting tips will help you when your tween has a meltdown.

Dealing with meltdowns is slightly less difficult when you realize what they are. Meltdowns are reactions to negative, overpowering feelings or overwhelming sensory input. They’re not an attempt to manipulate parents into giving in to a tween’s wishes.

Parenting Tip: Understand Why Your Tween Hasn’t Outgrown Meltdowns

Emotional outbursts in an older child can seem unsettling or perhaps even maddening. Tweens aren’t little kids anymore. On the other hand, they’re not yet teenagers, either. Tweens are caught between childhood and adolescence, not quite fitting into either category. Drastic changes and new experiences can be overwhelming and lead to meltdowns.

Your child’s meltdowns often happen precisely because they’re a tween. They aren’t too old for yelling or slamming doors or throwing things or saying hurtful things. They’re just the right age. Tweens begin to grow and change rapidly. Physical, emotional, cognitive, hormonal, and neurological changes correspond to a desire for more independence and responsibilities.  These changes can cause tweens to act out rather than responding rationally to parents and peers.

Other challenges underlying tween meltdowns include:

  • Sometimes wanting to return to the simpler days of childhood and other times looking forward to being in high school and close to adulthood
  • Feeling left out or disliked by peers, which can be daily in middle school
  • Feeling stifled in their efforts to gain some independence
  • Frustration and anger that comes from difficult relationships or situations
  • A need for understanding from peers, parents, and teachers that sometimes goes unmet

Understanding the reasons why your son or daughter has meltdowns is the first step in de-escalating the intense emotions being expressed. There are other things you can do to help prevent and reduce the breakdown of rational conversations.

Parenting Tips for Dealing with a Tween Meltdown

While it isn’t possible to completely put an end to meltdowns, you can do certain things to reduce them as well as help them be shorter in length. Consider these parenting tips for tween meltdowns:

Be proactive. During non-emotional times, talk with your tween. What upsets them to the point of breaking down? What is going on during a meltdown? Is your middle schooler hungry? Tired? Having problems with peers? Help your tween develop positive coping strategies and stress management that could reduce the number, frequency, and duration of the outburst.

Additional parenting tips for tween meltdowns:

  • Cultivate an open, respectful relationship. Listen fully to your tween, accept their feelings and what they have to say.
  • Create an atmosphere of trust and safety because tweens need an accepting place to express their emotions without worrying about being judged or punished.

For dealing with a meltdown as it’s happening:

  • Avoid trying to rationalize or reason. Using logic to try to talk your tween out of the meltdown will only make things worse for both of you. During meltdowns, tweens are operating strictly from emotions rather than logic.
  • Don’t take the behavior personally. Tweens don’t mean what they say during an outburst. Feeling hurt or slighted keeps you from understanding your tween. As a parent, it’s important to remain calm, responding to your tween rather than reacting emotionally.
  • Don’t avoid your tween’s feelings or explosive behavior. Let them know that you support them and are by their side. This can reduce anxiety about talking to you and foster a closer relationship.
  • Allow your tween to feel and verbally express negative emotions. Not only does this reduce the need for meltdowns, in helping tweens develop emotional intelligence, you’re helping them develop life skills.
  • Make use of fresh starts. One a meltdown is over and your tween has had space and time to relax and decompress, communicate that the incident is behind you both and that you’re starting fresh. Make sure you do this completely rather than continuing to bring up the behavior and what caused it. Your tween will feel safe, secure, and confident that they have your love and support.

See your tween for who they are and all their positives. Understand them, support them, and help them process their powerful emotions, and they’ll soon grow beyond emotional meltdowns. In the meantime, remember this insight from a middle school boy with autism spectrum disorder: “Meltdowns are not who I am.” They’re not who your tween is, either.

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article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, June 29). Parenting Tips for When Your Tween Has a Meltdown, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/parenting-skills-strategies/parenting-tips-for-when-your-tween-has-a-meltdown

Last Updated: August 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD