If you have emotional teens in your house, then believe me, you are experiencing a phase that just about every parent goes through. It’s been said that a teen’s highs are their highest and their lows are the lowest. The up-and-down emotions that a teen expresses can be exhausting for you as a parent as you strive to figure out how to respond to the roller coaster ride.
It’s important to handle emotional teens with care. And by “handle with care” I do not mean with kid gloves. I mean literally handle them with care, concern and unconditional love. Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to handling your adolescent and their emotions.
DON’T dismiss their emotions. Oh, you’ll get over it. It’s not really that big of a deal. It’s not the end of the world! Their emotions are very real to them and dismissing those feelings can shut them down from ever sharing their thoughts. What they are feeling is very real to them, even if you think it’s silly or not important.
DON’T mock them. This can take many forms: sarcasm, repeating what they say in a childish voice, or even making a joke of their feelings. Again, this type of response will shut them down from communicating with you and invalidate what they feel.
DON’T interrogate. When looking for insight into your teen’s emotions, look at it as a chance to connect, rather than grill them.
DON’T overlook the obvious: sleep, diet, body changes, brain development, and hormones.
Your adolescent’s body is changing, which sets off a whole bunch of feelings about how they look or feel.
Sleep is very important. Pre-teens need 9-11 hours of sleep and teens need 8-10. Lack of sleep definitely affects their moods.
Eating and exercise can also affect moods. Good eating habits and plenty of physical activity can help a teen stabilize moods.
Your teen’s brain is going through many changes as well and will continue to do so until they are in their early 20s.
And lastly, the hormones! They will bring about physical changes and sexual and romantic feelings–things that can be overwhelming and often confusing to your adolescent.
DON’T try to fix them. Let them learn to figure out solutions to their problems with you coaching, but not interfering or rescuing.
DO work at staying connected with your teen. They may seem to be pushing you away but don’t let that put you off. They still need you in their lives. Learn to speak their love language, schedule quality time with them and seek to understand what they are feeling.
DO listen without judging or interrupting. After you’ve listened, you can calmly share your perspective, but when they are talking be sure that you are truly focusing on giving them your full attention and hearing everything they are saying as well as observing how they are saying it.
DO give them space when they need it. If they are upset, they may need some time before you come in and try to talk or even give them a hug. I remember many times after a rough game, my athletic children did not want a hug from me. They needed to process their disappointment first.
DO be open to new ways to help them process emotions. When my oldest daughter was in middle school, she was not comfortable talking about certain things out loud, so we started a mother/daughter journal. I would write things to her and leave it on her bed and within a week or two or even a few days, the journal would be back on my bed with her thoughts and feelings–things that she just wasn’t yet comfortable saying out loud to her mom.
Be open to letting other trusted adults be the sounding board for your teen. I’m so grateful for the mentors and coaches that listened to and spoke into my kids’ lives as they traveled through adolescence.
DO strive to be brief and be silent. Lectures do not work. After a few seconds, your child will start tuning you out. Talking too much or discussing a situation forever leads a teen to practice parent deafness.
DO stay away from asking WHY? It can feel like an attack. Rephrase to: What were your reasons for doing that?
DO speak the truth in love after you’ve listened. When I hear/saw you do (the action), I felt hurt/disappointed because (reasons for hurt). Will you please (give solutions to the hurt, such as apologize) ?
DO compliment more than you correct. For every correction/criticism, a parent needs to deliver 5-9 complements to balance things out.
DO filter your responses when it comes to areas that your child is sensitive about: their looks, weight, clothes, friends, sports playing time, performances, etc. The list goes on.
DO ask questions that allow them to express their opinion. They need to feel heard and know that they are SEEN.
DO talk to your kids with the same respect you give to friends or colleagues. Guidance, discipline and coaching can all be done respectfully, which simply means taking the other person’s feelings into account and reacting calmly. GUIDE them, instead of DICTATING.
As parents, your job is not to quash your teen’s emotions, it is to help them learn how to maneuver the minefield of feelings they are walking through every day. This means that you too, as parents, must model self-control to your kids.
If you are struggling with your teen, please call me for a free intro consultation here and we will talk about how to handle them with CARE.