What Happened To My Sweet Child?
Once your child started growing into a teenager, you saw some changes in their attitude and probably the family dynamic between you as parent and daughter/son. You thought the terrible twos were bad but now these teenage years make those memories of raising your toddler seem like a breeze in comparison.
Teenagers are trying to create an identity for themselves. They don’t want to be seen as a child anymore, but will often act like they are more independent than they really are. They are also going through physical and hormonal changes that can heighten their mood swings and emotional states. It may seem to you like your teen is overly emotional. But life at this time is a lot for a teens to deal with.
How are you supposed to still parent them when they just want to push you away? How do you deal with these “terrible teen” temper tantrums, bouts of angry explosions, balls of tears, and “overreactions” to situations? How do you teach them how to become successful, happy, independent adults when they don’t seem interested in what you have to say? And how do you keep your cool when they start pushing all your buttons?
Teen Counseling / Family Counseling
Below, I’ll give some specific tips about how to handle your emotional teen, but one way to help put those tips into effect (plus some more suited just for you and your family) can be to do Teen or Family Counseling. Often family counseling can help parents and teens work together to understand one another better and work through the ups and downs of these teenage years. Teen counseling can let the teens express their emotions to a mental health professional who can guide them through handling their emotional roller coaster ride, as well as understand where their parents are coming from and how to communicate with them in a reasonable way.
Parents typically want family counseling more than teens, but it turns out that teens can actually benefit from sessions much more than they think when they open up to the idea a little bit. This is partly because each part of the family starts to understand the other more. Learning how to cope with emotions instead of either letting them take over or trying to axe them at this age is a very important component of learning how to deal with things later in life as adults.
5 Tips for Parenting Your Emotional Teen:
- Create an open environment for them to talk with you. Let them know that you are there if they want to talk. Even if what they tell you is not what you want to hear, try not to react with haste or extreme emotion yourself. Try to understand where they are coming from, put yourself in their shoes, and show some empathy for what they are dealing with. When they feel like they can be open with you without fear of automatically getting in trouble or feeling like they did something wrong, they are more likely to want to open up to you and share their emotions. Don’t ditch the parent role for a friend role with your teens, but establish an honest communication policy where you make an effort to really listen to what they have to say without letting your own emotional reactions take over.
- Don’t just sooth their emotions with a quick fix. It’s okay for your teen (or anyone) to sometimes feel sad, angry, frustrated or hurt. These feelings are natural and shouldn’t just be masked by happiness to solve the problem. It’s important to help your teen cope with these emotions, while still setting some boundaries for how far they take them.If they are sad about a disagreement with a close friend, don’t just shrug it off and tell them to forget about it at the mall with the $20 you just gave them. It’s okay for them to experience the sadness and learn from this experience. Empathize with them, then explain that it isn’t the end of the world but that they can understand why they are feeling sad and how they might be able to resolve the situation or know how to handle a similar situation better next time.
If they are angry and throw a fit because you said they weren’t allowed to go to a party, instead of getting angry back or telling them they aren’t allowed to get angry, explain that you understand they are angry, but this is your decision. Let them express their anger with limits… No screaming, breaking things, saying hurtful words, etc. Always try to empathize with their feelings, but don’t condone bad behaviors.
- Choose your battles. Teens are dealing with a lot of conflicting emotions and hormones without the maturity or experience of an adult. Sometimes a little overreacting that doesn’t lead to negative life-altering reactions doesn’t have to be always be addressed. Give them some slack to learn on their own and have some space when they need it. A little defiance is typical for teens, so they don’t need to be talked to over every little occurrence. Save some of the parenting talks for the more serious outbursts or bad behaviors.
- Praise their healthy emotional reactions. When you start seeing your teen handling their emotions in a good way, let them know! Let them acknowledge when they have a negative emotion and understand why they are feeling that way. Let them take their time overcoming that emotion while stopping themselves from doing bad behaviors because of it. You can do this with positive emotions too… so they understand what made them happy or excited but to not let those feelings prompt a negative behavior like rubbing something in someone’s face or letting it distract them from completing necessary tasks.
- Be aware of your teen’s life. Hopefully having open communication, showing empathy, letting them have and learn from experiencing negative emotions, giving them some slack, and rewarding healthy emotional reactions will let your teen trust and respect you to let you into their life a little. But after all they are teenagers and often don’t communicate everything with their parents. Try to be involved by getting to know their friends, spending family time together, and knowing what activities they are involved with.This can build a better relationship between you but also keeps you in the loop with their emotional state. You’ll know if something is up. If you feel there is something really wrong where they are having a prolonged hard time coping with their emotions or they may be depressed, seeking professional help is needed. Some signs could include sleep problems, long periods of sadness, extreme weight loss or gain, drastic mood swings, problems in school or with the law, signs of drug or alcohol use, or sudden change in friends or personality.
Parenting a teenager is a challenging time not only for trying to make sure you are teaching them how to eventually become well-rounded and emotionally-balanced adults, but also to maintain a healthy parent-teen relationship with minimal arguments. Communication can be key, but it’s sometimes easier said than done. Teen or Family Counseling may seem necessary is some cases but can be beneficial for any family.
If you are in South Florida/Broward area and would like a free counseling consultation, please contact me, Susan Block, LMFT to schedule an appointment.