Strategies for Preteen Emotions

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**This is a guest post from Nick Diliberto from
Preteens are in transition from childhood to adolescence. As a result, undergoing massive amounts of change on all fronts – spiritually, socially, mentally and emotionally. Let’s take a look at some their emotional changes and what you can do to accommodate those changes.
Emotional changes of preteens:

1. No filter between emotion and mouth

One year for camp, I was busy helping parents check in students and coordinating our departure from the church to camp. It was hot, and I was juggling three or four things all at once. So, I was a bit stressed out. A preteen standing next to me blurted out, “Mr. Nick, you smell like a wet dog and you’re sweaty! Gross!” Preteens speak their minds. They feel an emotion, in this case a yucky feeling, and don’t hesitate to communicate it to everyone around them.

What can you do? When a weird comment comes your way, relax and let it slide. Don’t take it personally. Also, when something inappropriate or hurtful comes out of their mouths, help them see how that comment affects those around them. Often, they don’t even realize the damage incurred. They were just speaking their minds. You could also equip preteens from a Biblical perspective to understand the power of words, by doing a lesson or series on the topic. Empower them to use a filter between emotion and mouth.

2. Lack of Control

For the most part, preteens lack control of their emotions. If they’re angry, they lash out. If sad, they mope around the house. If excited, they’re bouncing off the walls. They also quickly go from one emotion to the next. It is common for them to go from happy, mad, sad and then happy again all in a short period of time.

What can you do? Provide healthy ways for preteens to identify and express emotions, such as: art, music, journaling, singing, etc. Affirm that emotions are God-given, and it is our job to learn how to identify, express and control them. When a preteen is all over the emotional map and it affects others in the group, pull the student aside. Allow the preteen to talk about how she feels at that moment. Have a conversation about self-control and give her a few minutes to work through the emotions. Most of the time, that does the trick.

3. Drama

Preteens are all about drama. Often, a minor event is blown way out of proportion. They have a way of making a big deal out of a little deal.

What can you do? Avoid riding their emotional roller coaster. Be a calm, logical adult in their lives. When drama erupts with multiple preteens within the group, as-is often the case, then take them and have a chat. Hear them out and address the situation if necessary. Then, ask them to drop it and move on.
Nick Diliberto is the creator of, which provides creative curriculum and resources for preteen ministry. He is also the preteen columnist for Children’s Ministry Magazine.

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