Take a Deep Breath – Advice for Parents of Preteens

If you’re the parent of a preteen and you haven’t had a mental breakdown yet, you are doing fabulous.  I have two boys ages 10 and 11.  Keeping cool when you are faced with so much negativity and family turbulance isn’t easy.   Remember your child is dealing with hormones and strong emotions they’re not yet equipped to handle.  Check this article out for some insight.

My oldest son is turning 11 in one month and let me tell you the eye rolling, negative attitude and disrespectful outbursts have been a way of life for a while.  I was expecting these wonderful behaviors at the magic age of 13 when they are considered teenagers but I was wrong and ill prepared.

Don’t take this the wrong way, David is the kind of kid who will run out in the street to save a stray dog from getting hit.  He is the kid on the soccer field who will pass the ball, at just the right time, to the kid who hasn’t been able to score a goal all season.  I try to keep these things in mind when he looks me straight in the eye and lies about using my debit card to purchase $200 in game tokens on Facebook.

Dealing with your kids’ misbehavior effectively requires that you deal with your own emotional reactions first.  One holiday, when David was being particularly snarky, I found him curled up in a ball inside of a relative’s closet.  He was not considering how his disrespectful actions would result in such a family backlash.  I truly don’t think he was thinking at all.  The intellectual part of me likes to point out that it is up to the adults in his life to establish clear boundaries in an emotionally safe environment.  In reality when many of us are hit with outright defiance we push back.  And so, it begins.

So how do we expect our kids to have healthy relationships if we haven’t honestly dealt with our shit first?   I mean let’s be honest, how many of us have yelled across the house for our kids to, “log the hell off of Minecraft now,” while we are glued to a smartphone.


Photo by Sara Logston 

Big Changes Start Simple

You can find hundreds of books and articles with parenting advice but who can remember that crap when you are super pissed, hurt, or exhausted.  Learning to take long deep breaths benefits us in general and in the moment.  There is some great science about the benefit of “mindful breathing” but the practice is not new.  Drop in on a few yoga classes and listen to your body afterwards.

Deep Breathing will:

  • Provide your brain with much needed oxygen so you don’t say something stupid or hurtful
  • Reduce anxiety for you and ultimately those around you
  • Help train your body to deal with stressful situations by regulating cortisol (the stress hormone)
  • Help activate the parasympathetic nervous system (triggering your body to rest) by practicing deep breathing daily.
  • Slow your heart rate
  • lower your blood pressure
  • Relax your muscles
  • Improve mental observation which helps you make better decisions
  • Model an excellent coping skill for your child who has big feelings like anger and frustration they don’t know how to deal with all the time

“A Breath of Fresh Air”

Since most of us live a sedentary lifestyle we are used to taking short shallow breaths.  We don’t know how to breathe deeply.  There is a surprising amount of information on the internet about different breathing exercises but this article describes the easiest way to calm yourself down in a stressful situation.

Calming Breath

  1. Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs.
  2. Hold your breath to the count of “three”.
  3. Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach.

For me it helps to take small amounts of time throughout the day to practice deep breathing when I am feeling stressed, frustrated or angry.  Most people don’t even know I am doing it.  This prevents the “big blow up ” from happening.  I cannot utilize any other parenting tools if I am acting like an asshole myself.  Pay attention to your body throughout the day and practice this skill if

  • you have had a bad day at work
  • your kids have not done their chores
  • your dog ate the last piece of pie

You get the idea.

You are  in Control

In the heat of the moment I think it is perfectly acceptable to take a short breather before dishing out the dreaded consequence sometimes.  Let them freak out a little not knowing what’s coming while you get your Zen on.

I have made mistakes.  I have yelled at inappropriate times and kept silent at times when David needed someone to speak up for him.  This isn’t about blame, guilt or putting your child in some seemingly protective bubble because we can’t escape childhood without some sort of trauma.  This is about learning to become your best authentic self so you can help your kids do the same.  It’s ok to be frustrated and it is healthy to ask for help.

Now take a deep breath.

Some information about Deep breathing

Just Breathe: Body Has A Built-In Stress Reliever
The Science of Slow Breathing
Relaxed and Contented: Activating the Parasympathetic Wing of Your Nervous System

About saralogston

I live in the Pacific Northwest with my family of 4 and extended family. I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past 11 years but I am currently transitioning back to work part time. My interests are healthy living, saving money, knitting and cooking.
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11 Responses to Take a Deep Breath – Advice for Parents of Preteens

  1. Celtic Casita says:

    I have gone to yoga weekly for years now. The breathing exercises I learned there helped tremendously during labor. It also helps me keep my cool in intense emotional situations of all sorts.


  2. Diana Williams says:

    wow…nice blog..its really helpful to us


  3. I have a 10 year old daughter who now cries at the drop of a hat. I have an 11 year old son who has outright rage fits.

    The struggle is real. Especially when I am a territorial male who likes things to always be in order. Tag that with 2 younger children, and it’s a chemical explosion waiting to happen.

    Thank you for showing me I’m not alone.


  4. I read this with trepidation. My kids are little still, under 5, but I cannot bring myself to think about what is going to hit in a few years. And I have read so much that says that the transitions are taking place earlier and earlier.

    But your advice is brilliant. Brilliant for then and brilliant for now. I also have moments when I need to stop and breath – especially after reading what your article said about the benefits of deep breathing.

    Its so important to look within ourselves and the example we are setting before we try and teach them to do something different to what we are doing.

    Thanks for a great read!


    • saralogston says:

      Thank you for the comments. I think this article is aplicable for parents at almost any stage This is just what I am going through right now.

      Yes the transition is happening sooner and sooner thanks to many factors but it can be an exciting time as well. I am having the most interesting conversations with my son. I hope you are enjoying the stage you are in now. They come and go so quickly.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Manic Mommy says:

    My boys are still pre school, not preteen. But my oldest niece is turning 13 next month, and her brother is 10. Maybe I should forward this to my sister in law…


  6. Mommy Dil says:

    My boy is almost at his terrible twos! So even though we re miles away from preteens, im ready to pull my hair out!
    Thank you for these tips!


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