As mothers we love to complain about our daughters being too dramatic, while being completing forgetful of all the ways we were overly dramatic as girls ourselves--or in my case, overly dramatic yesterday. I keep thinking we should take this show on the road--Madeleine and me, but thankfully, there's a young troubled starlet on the cover of every gossip magazine to remind me that life as a child star (with or without the dramatic stage mother) means rehab is just a few years away.
Here are a few ways I'm trying to play the role of "mature grownup" when Madeleine is responding to life's every turn with drama, drama, drama:
Some of this is normal. Notice I say "some." Madeleine has been an expressive child since birth. It only makes sense that her capacity for self-expression would grow right along with her verbal and reasoning skills. She's got the full range of emotions going from across the spectrum and that's a good thing. My work is to channel her energy, not squelch it. Understanding (and honoring) her as a naturally expressive person helps me put this behavior in perspective.
Just because your drama queen is in hysterics doesn't mean you have to be. High strung kids can pull everyone else into their drama in no time. Before you know it, you're pacing, emoting, yelling, and throwing your hands around for emphasis, too. I find it helps most when I take a calm, quiet and somewhat detached demeanor. She's caught up in her own emotion, but Mom is doing just fine. This conveys a natural boundary that gives her confidence and something to count on. Not an easy posture for me, but I'm learning.
It's okay to step away from the fire. Sometimes Madeleine is too upset/tired/animated and/or offended to really entertain any other point of view. In these cases, things go better if I'm empathetic ("I can see you are really having a hard time") and clear ("I'm not going to talk about this until I have a chance to calm down myself and think it through") in the midst of her storm. By giving myself a little timeout to process, I offer an example of how to get through heavy-duty emotions. Just because her intensity is turned way up doesn't mean I need to react immediately. Giving myself time to think helps both of us.
Try passing notes. When Madeleine is really upset about something, sometimes we communicate best through writing. At eleven, she's well acquainted with the brilliance of the phrase "circle yes or no." By writing back and forth, we can boil things down to the underlying issues and say the most important things on our minds. Most of the time her outburst is connected to a tiny need she's feeling too big to own up to, like--"I need more alone time" or "I need quiet time with mom". These are the kinds of things that notes bring to the surface.
Don't feed the elephants. There's an disproportionate amount of media/books/music focused on the insecure girl, desperate for reassurance and approval. While I understand that much of this is designed to validate feelings and help girls get on towards empowerment, sometimes I wonder if we're telling our girls that it's normal to be unsure of themselves--that part of growing up is playing the part of the tentative ingenue, afraid of the world. I know Madeleine is listening hard when I tell her that this classic "girl" behavior doesn't have to be her destiny--and that working on social and academic skills is one way to keep her standing tall and calm in the inevitable storms.
Cry if you want to. Sometimes our drama queens are tuned into the big feelings that we long ago learned how to stamp out. It's okay to spend a little time in meltdown mode until the waves wash you back to shore. A gentle bubble bath is the perfect place to get it all out while doing some important self-nurture at the same time. Madeleine is learning how to self-soothe--an important skill for grownups as well.
Are you a drama queen? Is your girl (or boy)? Share with us what works well in the comments below.