Outsmarting Teen Angst & the Art of Deescalation
Teenagers are well-known for mood swings, as well as unpredictable and sometimes volatile behavior. Approaches that help relax tense situations allow you to communicate more effectively with your teen. More effective communication tends to yield better results, and ideally better understanding between you and your teen. Keep in mind, however, even well-intentioned execution won't always work- teenagers are tricky, and we are not parental robots. As always, parenting strategies should be taken with a grain of salt and healthy dose of self-compassion.
1. Lectures NEVER Work: Think back to your younger days when adults would talk at length- or ad nauseam- about something you really didn't care about......Right, remember how your thoughts drifted or you became defensive? EXACTLY....You may have the most helpful and poignant anecdote about how to be successful and fulfilled, but you've talked too long and lost your audience. Keep comments brief and focused on the present. Most parents want to help, and tend to over-explain their thoughts.
2. Stay Calm: Most of the time, keeping calm and not escalating your behavior is essential for preventing full-blown escalation. Often, parents cannot manage their own distress and unintentionally push the interaction toward crisis. Even (or maybe especially) with teens, it's important to model emotional regulation. Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings, try to stay calm and focused on the present.
3. Do NOT Poke the Angry Bear: Your teen daughter comes in the door and slams down her backpack, clearly upset. You ask, prod and plea for information- which makes her furious. She is now so angry at you for talking to her, she's stomping up the stairs. Naturally, you follow her, fling open the door she has just slammed in your face and BOOM, the fight has moved to nuclear explosion level. Or, you could have waited five minutes to let your teen gather herself while you start dinner, stating, "You seem upset, I'm in the kitchen if you need anything." The second scenario usually does not end in turmoil. Sometimes it's important to manage our own anxiety about seeing our child in distress, and waiting to offer support in the right moment. Once emotional reactivity has abated, conversation and strategizing can begin.