It is not uncommon for parents of teens to feel like they are witnessing a roller coaster of emotions. One day, their teen may seem happy and like all is going well, while the next day, their teen may appear to be easily set off. Teens are heavily impacted by social situations, academic pressures, and the tremendous changes in their body and brains during this time. Being a teen can feel challenging, and so can parenting a teen.
I often hear from teens that they are frustrated because they feel like their parents don’t understand them, and parents often express feeling as though they are walking on eggshells. During this phase, it is common for teens to feel less understood and for parents to feel less respected. While the teen years may be trying for all, there are things that you as a parent can do to support your teen’s turbulent emotions and strengthen your relationship.
- Give your teen some space. If your teen is in the middle of an emotional outburst and nothing you do seems to help, it may be best to give your teen time and space. You can say something like, “I know this is upsetting and I am here to listen when you are ready.” Alternately, if you feel yourself getting angry, anxious, or upset, you can say, “This is not a good time to talk, let’s reconnect later.” This little bit of time can help prevent you or your teen from saying something regretful, and it might be the time needed to collect thoughts and calm down.
- Let your teen know that you are a safe place. In addition to letting your teen know that they can trust you, they also need to know that you won’t judge them. Your teen is less likely to be open and confide in you if they feel that you are closed-minded, unwilling to hear what they have to say, or respond with knowledge from your time as a teen, which is different from their experiences today.
- Take time to listen. One of the best ways to let your teen know that you care is by allowing them to share what is on their mind and listening instead of immediately telling them what they should do. After they share, reflect back your understanding of the situation to make sure you are on the same page.
- Ask if you can help. Teens are more apt to consider your advice if you allow them to ask for it or if you ask before giving it. Avoid going into “fix it mode” without ensuring that your teen wants your help. It is helpful to say, “Do you want me to just listen, or would you like me to offer some advice?”
- Help empower your teen. Sometimes, the best thing you can do to help your teen is to guide instead of direct. Part of helping your teen grow up is empowering them to come up with their own solutions. Be curious and ask them how they would like to handle the situation or what they would like to do about it. Empower your teen by encouraging them to voice their opinions and let them know that you respect their decisions. It is also important to allow your teen to make mistakes and learn from them.
- Be a good role model. Avoid telling your teen how to deal with their emotions—show them. We all manage challenging emotions at some point, so let your child know when you are facing challenges and explain how you are handling them. You can subtlety be their guide by letting your teen see how you respond to those challenging times.
For more ways that you can support your teen and help them through troubling emotions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.