One of the best ways to understand teen angst is remembering what it felt like to be one. For many parents, this will mean digging deep and remembering what it felt like to not only watch our bodies transform but also the insurmountable changes that took place inside of our minds. Being a teen in many ways is like having no place to sit on a see-saw. You are too young for half the things you want to do and too old to do the other half. The invisible developments inside the adolescent brain either fuel the fire and ignite passion or extinguish self-confidence, leading to detrimental consequences.
While your teen may no longer need you to hold their hand when they are crossing the street or bandage their boo-boos, they do need you, arguably, more than ever. It can be hard to comprehend as you look up at your teen, who has surpassed you in height, has a deeper voice, curves, and a know-it-all attitude. The truth is, they don’t know it all, and understanding this is the first step in helping them deal with typical teen angst that occurs naturally in every teenager.
Their cognitive abilities related to self-regulation are not fully developed, so adolescents tend to be risk-takers. As a result, teens often react emotionally instead of logically. Because of the immense brain development occurring during this period of growth, many teens also have a hard time managing stress and frustrations. They tend to keep their emotions bottled up inside. It can lead to unhealthy and dangerous outcomes without much-needed guidance. However, these emotions can become a powerful outlet in finding their voice and creatively using their talents when managed well.
With programs such as Living Skills in the Schools, we are fortunate to speak directly and honestly with teens in their schools about substance abuse prevention, peer pressure, and coping skills to help them build resiliency and navigate these strong emotions. These conversations are the game changers that parents can and should implement in their homes. Below are three of the most important ways you can help your teen flourish during these intensely transformative years.
Give them the Vocabulary and Space they Need to Speak
Finding the right words to express our feelings is hard when emotions run high. Creating a space of openness is a dual process.
- Talking to your kids honestly about how you feel will help them open up. For example, let them know if you are terrified about them going to their first party. “I am feeling super anxious about this party. These are my fears about why. What are some ways you can help me feel better about letting you go?”
- Then let them speak without judgment. Your teen may not say what you want to hear but give them the space to express themselves. Listening will open the door for communication and let them know that they can turn to you for help. It also helps them understand that they are not alone in feeling these strong emotions.
Help them Practice Coping Skills
A great way to build up our self-support systems is to make sure we always have some extra on reserve.The key to prevention is building up our emotional reservoirs ahead of time. Know your coping skills when things get complicated. Teach your teen to become aware of their own before reaching those emotional highs and lows. Again, one of the best ways to teach is by practicing your strategies. Figure out what helps you and talk about it with your teen. Ask them what works for them when they feel upset, frustrated, overwhelmed, or lonely. Below are some healthy strategies teens can turn to during trying times
– Take It Out on Exercise
– Use Your Breath to De-stress
– Play Music
– Create Art
– Write the Words Down in a Journal
– Practice Gratitude Every Day
Talk and Keep Talking
If you don’t talk to your kids about challenging topics, you will never have the opportunity to hear them or be heard.
Parents, this means it’s time to recognize that you are no longer responsible for a child but a young adult. Start the hard conversations (yes, this means drugs, sex, depression, and every other uncomfortable topic in the gamut) and keep talking. Below are some tips on how to begin.
– Make Time and Eliminate Distractions
– Tell Your Truth So They Will Tell Theirs
– Incorporate an Activity Like Walking or Cooking Together
– Make Sure to Use “I” Statements
– Respect What They Say
– Don’t Push Them to Talk
– Be Honest
Working with your teen by using these strategies can help them feel they have the power to deal with difficult situations and get through challenging times.No matter how hard we want to take away the hardships, they will come in the form of arguments with friends, challenging tests, deaths, and illness. Having a supportive parent can make all the difference. Be a role model for your teen and trust in yourself. The great superpowers behind resilience are self-compassion, self-respect, and self-confidence. To teach teens to trust in their power, we have to be seen and demonstrate how we overcome challenges during our own trying times.
Carolina Droze is a LSIS presenter of K-5th programming, freelance writer and copywriter. She is also a mom, wife, surfer, nature enthusiast and a lover of loud music and dancing like she just don’t care.