Why Is My 10 Year Old Daughter So Emotional?

Reviewed by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Hayley Vaughan Smith, Person Centred Counsellor and The Ridge Practice and Everlief Child Psychology
Author: Hayley Vaughan Smith, Person-Centred Counsellor

Did you know what having a 10 year old daughter would REALLY be like?

It’s around this age in girls, some significant changes happen as they head towards adolescence.

I’m going to talk you through some of the reasons why your daughter is emotional or moody at ten years of age.

Then we will look at my top ten strategies for supporting your daughter through this stage.

thoughtful ten year old girl walking with a rucksack

Why is My 10 Year Old Daughter So Emotional? What Parents Should Know

Each child is unique, but we see similarities in girls’ experiences through this phase of development. 

In my clinic, this is the most common age for children to start to show much more volatility in their emotions.

I understand that moodiness at this age can be both normal and stressful, and sometimes concerning.

There are some common explanations that explain why your 10 year old daughter is so moody at the moment.

So let’s take a breath and step back for a minute.

In this article, we’ll explore what might be happening for your daughter as she enters her pre-teen years.  I will help you understand what’s happening to her body, brain and emotions.

10 Years Old: What to Expect in Girls

At age ten, your daughter is likely facing a wave of physiological and emotional changes that can result in heightened moodiness.

These transitions, prompted by hormonal shifts and brain development, can lead to intense emotional fluctuations.

It’s key to recognize that your daughter’s body is navigating the onset of adolescence, marked by a significant surge in hormonal activity.

These hormonal changes can lead to increased emotional responses, resulting in bouts of jubilance followed by episodes of frustration or sadness.

Alongside this, your daughter’s brain is actively maturing, leading to important cognitive and emotional growth. This developmental phase often amplifies her responses to experiences, contributing to the emotional volatility characteristic of this age.

Comparatively, boys usually enter puberty later, around the ages of 12 to 13. Girls, however, can start this process as early as 8, and as late as 13 or 14 years old. This earlier start can add to the complexity of your daughter’s emotional experiences.

an assertive ten year old girl arguing with her mother

Common Reasons for Mood Changes in 10 Year Old Girls

Sleep Disruptions

Inadequate sleep can markedly influence your daughter’s emotional stability, energy levels, focus on academics, and overall sense of well-being.

Proper sleep is crucial for maintaining cognitive function and mood regulation. It provides the much-needed rest and rejuvenation her growing body and mind require.

Take a look at our comprehensive article on comprehensive article on sleep to discover effective ways to optimize your daughter’s sleep patterns.

Navigating Social Dynamics

As your daughter grows, so does her social world.

Friend groups can expand, morph, and sometimes, intense cliques can form.

It’s a time of discovery and self-assertion, where children grapple to find their place within these ever-evolving social constructs, seeking acceptance and validation from their peers.

a cross and angry ten year old girl

Increased Academic Pressure

At the same time, school starts to get harder. There is more pressure to do well, and teachers start expecting kids to learn more on their own.

All this extra schoolwork can be a lot to handle.

It can make your ten-year-old daughter feel stressed and worried, and it might be hard for her to explain or deal with these feelings.

Growing Awareness of the World

Your daughter might also start noticing big problems in the world, like climate change, unfairness in society, or the effects of things like the pandemic.

As she starts to understand how big these issues are, she might feel worried or uncomfortable.

She will be trying to figure out what these problems mean for her own life.

a ten year old girl upset with her head in her hands

Awareness of Death

Around this age, kids start to think more about the idea of death.

They start to understand that death is a part of life and this can make them feel scared and unsure.

This new understanding might make them worry more about their own health and safety, and that of people they care about.

Dealing with Worries

Your daughter might be feeling anxious or worried about all these changes.

It’s especially important to nurture and reassure her.  Let her know that these feelings are normal and that you’re there to help and guide her through them.

Concerns About Your 10 Year Old Daughter: What to Watch Out For

Normal development encompasses negative feelings and emotions.  Allowing room for your daughter to experience these and learn from them can be really positive.

However, have your antennae up so you can recognise and prepare for any problematic changes in your daughter as she matures.

Keep a look out for any prolonged distress or changes that are having a significant impact on your daughter’s everyday life.

The following changes are normal. Your child may need extra support to navigate these changes if they start to feel overwhelming, however.

Common Physical Changes in 10 Year Old Girls

  •  Sleep patterns. A lack of sleep may lower resistance to illness, affect mood, lower resilience and increase anxious feelings.
  • Signs of puberty and body development. This might include skin breakouts, oily hair, increase in height and changes of hip shape.
  • Periods. This can involve pain, cramps and nausea which might feel scary for your daughter.
  • Increase/ decrease in energy levels owing to multiple physical changes.
moody ten year old girl sitting at a desk

Common Emotional Changes in Your 10 Year Old

  • Being in a bad mood or having a bad day regularly.
  • Mood swings around the time of periods and getting used to hormonal changes.
  • Becoming less organised or forgetful.
  • Increase in appetite.
  • Loss or change of interest in activities.
  • Anxious feelings and thoughts about her body or image.
  • Emotional ups and downs. You might notice stronger reactions to things that didn’t bother her before or are bothering her more.

Your 10 Year Old Daughter and Common Social Influences on Their Mood

  • Fighting and falling out with friends.
  • Showing jealousy or possessiveness towards friends.
  • Worrying about her appearance and what others will think.
  • Pushing social boundaries and exerting her independence.
  • Expressing feeling different or uncertain about who she is.
sad tween girl sitting on grass

Your 10 Year Old Girl: Brain Development and Emotions

At 10 years old, your daughter’s brain is a long way off being fully formed. It’s very busy developing! 

The prefrontal cortex (at the front of the brain) is responsible for rational thinking and responding. Though it has a spurt in development in puberty, it continues developing until at least age 25 (possibly until age 40).

So, whilst pre-teenage girls may start to feel like a grown-up young woman, the truth is they are not quite ready.  They are yet to develop the brain connections and cognitive skills to express and articulate difficult feelings and fully rationalise situations.


Exploring Gender Identity at Ten Years Old

Many children explore their gender identity at around ten years old. It’s common both earlier and later, but at age ten and on the brink of puberty, it’s understandable that gender may be at the forefront of your ten year old’s mind.

Thankfully, exploring gender identity is becoming more accepted in society. If this is new territory for you, read this guide to gender identity written by our special guest writer Dawn Friedman.

Help Your Ten Year Old Daughter Stay Emotionally Healthy During This Time of Change

I hope that I have now answered the question, ‘Why is my 10-year-old daughter so moody?’ and I hope you feel reassured.

To help you further understand and support your daughter and help her stay emotionally healthy, here are my top 10 strategies.

These tips can help make things better for both of you, by improving your communication and helping you understand each other’s feelings better.

Let’s dive in!

10 Top Parent Strategies to Support Your Emotional Ten Year Old Daughter

1. Strengthen Your Relationship

This is the perfect time to strengthen your parent/daughter relationship before she heads into the teenage years. 

Focus on building connection with her.  

Plan special time together, and make the most of informal chatting time. For example, when it’s just you and her in the car on the way to clubs or school!

2. Teach and Guide

Talk about the changes she can expect in her body and with her emotions.

If talking is difficult, try using other resources, books or activities to help start the conversation and support her learning. See the book recommendation on puberty below.

tween girl writing

3. Stay Non-Judgmental With Your Moody Ten Year Old

You might notice your ten year old daughter expressing more opinions and they may not align with yours! 

“You don’t understand, you don’t get it”.  Stay as non-judgmental as you can.

As children become young adults they need to develop their core values through exploring their belief systems. Healthy debate can help them to do this.

4. Avoid Power Struggles

If challenging behaviour, conflict or angry outbursts are happening more frequently, consider adapting your emotional responses. 

Stop and ask yourself, ‘is there a better way of dealing with this situation?’. 

Explore what strategies work best for all family members. Our article on How to Deal With an Argumentative Child is full of practical advice.

Having clear boundaries and rules is crucial.  Decide which battles are most important and which ones you can let go.

a mother and tween daughter running together

5. Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle

Good sleep habits, a healthy diet and exercise are not easy to achieve, but focus on small, achievable goals and you’ll see steady change.

Limit screen time and encourage routines to help your child feel secure and grounded.

Read this article on lifestyle and wellbeing to guide you.

6. Be an Empathetic Listener

You may need to adjust your listening style to listen more and let your daughter know she’s been heard.

Try to balance this with giving her space for self-exploration in her areas of development and encourage self-expression.

Follow the strategies recommended in our Listening Skills for Parents article.

7. Allow Your Ten Year Old Increasing Privacy

Allowing your daughter some privacy with friends is part of her healthy development. Sharing private thoughts, secrets and conversations with friends is part of growing up and feeling grown-up.

tween girls chatting in a cafe

8. Work on Positive Sleep Habits

A good sleep routine is vitally important. 

The Sleep Foundation recommends 9-11 hours of sleep for 6-13 year-olds. How much time children spend sleeping will vary from family to family, but this is a good guide.

Your pre-teenager may tell you her friends are staying up late and beg you to let her do the same!  

In fact, this is actually when this age group needs the most sleep.

Resist the urge to conform to what everyone else is ‘perceived’ to be doing.  You can explore together routines that are effective and that she will stick to.

When asleep, our body rests, repairs and grows.  When young children stay up late, cortisol (our body’s main stress hormone) kicks into action.  This can actually make it harder to fall asleep and as cortisol stays in our system for a while, some effects may be felt the next day.

This can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Deflated energy levels
  • Poor concentration or forgetfulness
  • Moodiness
  • Headaches

9. Manage Screen Time Actively

Positive sleep habits are closely connected to balanced “screen habits”.

Your daughter should disconnect from electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. 

Blue light from devices suppresses melatonin (the sleep hormone) and keeps us awake.  Set consistent boundaries and expectations to effectively manage this.

10. Adopt Self-Care

This is for you.

Being a well-rested parent will help you stay calm and patient when you need to most.

Read this article on self-care (written for single parents but useful for all parents).

Here’s a really nice video from Intermountain Parents which illustrates many of the points I make above.

YouTube video

When Should You Be Concerned About Your Ten Year Old’s Mood Swings?

“Why is my 10 year old daughter so moody? When should I be worried that something more is going on for her?”  You know your daughter best of all, so trust your instincts here!

If you’re not sure how best to support your daughter and you are having concerns, seeking professional help can be the best thing to do, starting with your family doctor.

The doctor may make a referral to a Child Psychologist, CBT Therapist or Counsellor. You can find out more about different professionals who can help your daughter here.

Is your ten year old showing signs of any of the following?

  • Significant changes in behaviour, especially harmful behaviour or self-harm?
  • Low self-esteem, negative or harmful self-language.
  • Low mood or signs of depression.
  • Severe anxiety, panic attacks.
  • A constant struggle to meet demands placed on her. Neurodiversity in girls (such as ADHD and autism) can sometimes be more challenging to recognise than in boys. An assessment by a mental health professional will help to provide some answers.

If you feel your daughter is a yes to any of the above, seek professional support. Early intervention is important to protect their mental health.

Ten Year Old Mood Swings: Summary

It might seem that your daughter’s mood swings and emotions are all over the place.

You may be worried about the impact on your relationship with your daughter, or on the rest of the family.

Remember, negative feelings and emotions are normal during the pre-teenage years. Your child can learn to cope and manage them with some extra nurture and support.

You might experience some difficult times ahead but it’s not necessarily about tackling things the right way or the wrong way. Through trial and error and arming yourself well with strategies and techniques, you will discover the best way that works for you and your family.

Books: Understanding Mood Swings in Ten Year Old Girls

Celebrate Your Body (And It’s Changes Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book For Girls by Sonia Renee Taylor

Celebrate Your Body (And Its Changes, Too!)

Brighter Futures:  A Parents’ Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Children in The Primary School Years by Dr Lucy Russell, Dr Liz Dawes, Nicola Gorringe, Dr Katherine Hodson, Dr Jennifer Swanston and Dr Susan Wimshurst

Parenting Support Book
Brighter Futures: A Parents’ Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Children in the Primary School Years

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Free Printable Anger Thermometer & Parent Guide

Your Parent Guide to Dealing With a Controlling Child

Hayley Vaughan-Smith is a Person-Centred Counsellor accredited by the National Counselling & Psychotherapy Society. She is the founder and counsellor at The Ridge Practice in Buckinghamshire, and counsellor at Everlief Child Psychology.

Hayley has a special interest in bereavement counselling and worked as a bereavement volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care for four years.

Hayley is mum to 3 grown up girls, and gardening and walking in nature is her own personal therapy. Hayley believes being in nature, whatever the weather, is incredibly beneficial for mental health well-being.

Join They Are The Future’s free Facebook group for regular tips and great ideas to support teens and pre-teens with their mental health! Join the group: Parent Tips for Positive Child Mental Health UK.

parent tips for positive mental health facebook group