How to Cope with the Angry Teen

02.01.22 11:31 AM Comment(s) By Lisa

Tuesday Topics

 

Sometimes I look back and think “Omg I must have made my parents INSANE!” I remember the screaming matches with my mom and the silent treatment I gave my dad (because we didn’t dare yell at dad without that death stare).

 

I wish my mom was still here so I could bounce things off of her, although I’m pretty sure I know the advice she would give. When my daughter was going through her terrible 2s, 3s, and 4s (each year had its own challenges), I would say to my mom, “If I ever did this to you, I am SOOOOO SORRY!” She would laugh and say “Honey, it’s ok! We all did the same things to our parents, and they did the same things to theirs, and we all grew up and said the same “I’m sorry.”. It always made me feel a little better to know it wasn’t just me.

 

Fast forward to age 13 and we have crazy hormones, competition with peers, and a mindset that is almost adult but still remains a child. Now let’s add access to the World Wide Web to that.




And to add more to this growing plate, let’s add the normal childhood awkwardness, social pressures, and top it off with a global pandemic. This might be why I drink.

Oh, and after ALL my years of education, research, and life experience.... I’m “stupid” and I “just don’t understand”.

Every time I ask my daughter to do something I get “I know”. Well, that’s awesome she’s a genius. Why do I even have to say anything?




 


Anxiety, frustration, and fear. It’s what they are dealing with. We have to try and remember (even though it feels impossible when tempers are flaring) that they are not always in control of their emotions. The prefrontal cortex (which is the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and decision-making) is still not fully developed in teens, so their emotions tend to rise and fall like the ocean tides. It’s important to walk away sometimes, hit the pause button, and reset the mood.


 



So where is the line between allowing them to vent and express their anger..... and being disrespectful? I have this debate all the time with myself. I know when she lashes out at me it’s because she feels comfortable and safe doing so. She knows I will never turn my back on her. I know this because she would never talk to teachers, other adults, or even her friends this way. But when it comes to her being disrespectful, I tell her she is doing so (sometimes I yell) and then I walk away...... (and find a glass of wine or a wall to bang my head against).

 

 


The one thing I have realized is, when my temper flares in response to hers, it becomes a catalyst. Tension and anxiety get worse for both sides. I know she is at an age where she thinks she is an adult. She can craft amazing culinary creations, clean, do laundry, and other chores. But the image of the adult is proven an illusion when there is a dramatic reaction that is out of proportion to the event. For example, crying for 30 minutes because a particular fast-food joint closed earlier than expected or an event gets cancelled that is out of our control. Their coping mechanism is not fully developed yet.

 



So instead of saying: “Is this how you are going to act when you are in college if something doesn't go your way?” Try: “There will always be things in our life that we can’t control. We can’t let those things weigh us down”. (Now I just need to remember to follow my own advice).

 



It’s ok for them to be angry (which can be a healthy and normal emotion). But it’s not ok to be aggressive (which is a physical action). We as parents need to be the models for their behavior. When we act calm, it’s likely to diffuse a situation. Whereas, if we are screaming, it is like pouring gasoline on a fire.

 

 


  • Encourage sports or another form of exercise to your teens. The endorphins will result in less anxiety and depression. 

 

  • Encourage music therapy. Listening to your favorite tunes will often brighten a dark mood. 

 

  • Most importantly, leave open lines of communication and never stop trying to talk to your kids. They could be the victim of bullying and are acting out in response.



I’m not going on the “There is a mental health crisis in this country” spiel. We already know this. So, we either hide from it, or we do something about it. We all have pressures in life, may it be work, family, love, financial, a combination of the above, but it’s how we deal with the stress that defines us. And I don’t mean defining us to other people. I mean defining us to ourselves. I’ve spent a large part of my life caring about what other people think.... so much so, that I temporarily lost sight of myself. I have dropped the people that detract from my happy spirit, and I constantly encourage Maggie to do the same. In order to feel good, you need to surround yourself with people who make you feel good, lift you up, and listen. While I have been blessed with the gift of endless chatter, I have also worked very hard at the art of just listening. You will make a person feel valued in doing so.  (She won’t follow this advice now….. but she might in the future).

 

It’s also important to note that if your child is frequently aggressive, has significant, frequent mood swings, and/or expresses self-harm, it is time to get the professionals involved. The pandemic has seen a significant rise in teenage depression and suicide. The increased feelings of isolation mixed with daily routines that have been up ended, can add even more to the pressure of our children. If there are any concerns, call your pediatrician or family physician for further guidance.

In closing, we are all a part of this circle of life. I remember the pressures of being a teenager, needing to feel accepted, loved, and respected. We must remind ourselves that we went through it too. While they think we know nothing, they will realize one day in the future that we all go through these growing pains. Then you will hug and remind them when they have children of their own, that everything will be ok.

 

Xoxo -Lisa


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