Start the Conversation

Helping kids learn to navigate the world comes in many forms. As a parent, you coach your young child on the skills needed to walk, talk, eat, and grow. As your child grows, new skills are needed to navigate increasing responsibility. As these and physical changes occur, many feelings and emotions arise. Teenage life is a whole new world for you and your child. This journey requires more advanced emotional skills that need to be taught, practiced, and reinforced. Improvement comes through disappointments and trying again. Together you can make this transition a healthier one.

Talking with your tween about social and emotional health can be hard. The more often you have these conversations, the more comfortable they become. The first conversation won’t be perfect; that’s ok. The important thing is the you keep trying; this is not a one-time conversation.

Not sure when to start? How about now? Parents find that having these conversations while driving, making dinner, or while doing something fun is a great way to start. Use examples from your child’s life such as books, movies, TV, or daily events, to continue the conversation.

You know your child best. When you notice something off about your child, that’s a good time to chat. You can use your child's life experiences, like a fight with friends or a less than stellar grade, to start a conversation. Talking about the situation, feelings, and responses from everyone involved provides an opportunity to learn and grow.

Download the Feelings Wheel

The Feelings Wheel is a useful tool to facilitate conversations between you and your tween about what they are feeling and the linked underlying emotions.

Download the Talk to Tweens Safety Card

The Emotional Wellbeing Safety Card  is a quick reference guide to remind you of the tips and conversation starters to help you talk to  your tween.

Trauma Response

A trauma is any event that is deeply upsetting, scary, or harmful. We have all lived through a trauma in the past year dealing with Covid-19. Some children will be more impacted by this than others. After a trauma, the emotional effects can last a long time. It can be hard to move on because trauma affects a child’s sense of safety and trust.

There may be signs that your child may struggling, such as: unwanted thoughts or images, negative feelings, avoidance of reminders, problems with attention, being easily irritable or “on edge.”

There are things you can do as a parent to help your child process what has happened during this time and move forward.

Listen Attentively and Answer Questions

Your child has probably asked many questions throughout the pandemic. As things return to a more normal state, they will probably have more questions, such as “Am I safe?” “Why are things changing?” or “Can I hug my friends.” These are all normal thoughts for a tween. Answer questions in an age-appropriate manner, based on the information you have. You may not always have the answers, but you can show love and support for your child. It’s OK to tell them you don’t have all the answers and look for them together. Be brief, but honest.

Managing Anxiety and Stress

We have all just experienced a stressful experience that lasted for a long time. It’s normal to feel a mix of emotions, including exhaustion, uncertainty, or even joy to be nearing the end. Talk with your child about their feelings (generally and specifically) and about things impacting them.

Anxiety and anger are natural emotions that signal us to pay attention to adapt and protect ourselves. However, if they become overwhelming, it can be problematic. Here are some techniques to use to manage stress and anxiety. These are great for kids, tweens, and adults.

Identify and Name your Feelings

Use our feelings wheel as a visual to help you. When you notice anxiety creeping up, being able to say “That’s my anxiety” can help you move toward managing the feeling.

Emotional Health

Emotional health is the ability to express feelings, adjust to emotional challenges, tolerate frustration, cope with life stressors, and enjoy life. It includes knowing our strengths and what we can get better at, persisting after failure and setback, living and working on our own, but letting others help us from time to time. With some tools, tips, and practice, you can become a parent pro at talking about emotional health. It starts with knowing how to recognize and identify your own emotions and help your child identify theirs.

Social Health

Social health is having healthy relationships with friends, family, and the community, and having an interest in or concern for others. Your tween will naturally begin pulling away from family while peers become more important. However, they are still learning how to interact with others and your support and encouragement can teach them healthy ways to build relationships. Allow your teen to practice their maturing social skills, then provide gentle encouragement on what went well and how they might improve. Having a good framework of how to have healthy relationships with peers and adults can set them up for lifelong success.

With all the distancing we’ve done over the last year, social interactions may feel strange to your tween. Talk to them about how to interact positively with others to make meaningful connections. Encourage them to talk to someone new, be open, practice listening, and to be themselves. Acknowledge things may be awkward at first but will get better with practice. Middle school is a time to explore and friendships often change. Remind them every kid feels nervous. Establishing clear routines and rituals for various times of day like mornings and after school provides structure.

Primary Children's Behavioral Health Program

Learn more about the Primary Children's Behavioral Health program and the services we offer to children and teens.

Bienstar Emocional en Español

Obtenga más información sobre cómo cuidar la salud social y emocional de su hijo preadolescente.