Teaching Teens to Feel and Manage Their Roller Coaster of Emotions
Parents often complain that their teens’ over-the-top reactions to the smallest issues are annoying and irritating. But let’s take a step back and try to understand teens a little.
Chances are, if you are reading this, you have gone through adolescence yourself, and you know how rough it can get. Teens are dealing with raging hormones, peer influence, and school pressures. They’re starting to date and establishing relationships in an era where the smallest mishap could be broadcast on social media. As if that wasn’t enough, their brains are still under construction, ensuring that decision making and problem-solving remains tricky.
It’s no wonder teens can’t seem to control their emotions.
Teaching Emotional Self-regulation to Teens
Most parents want their teens to grow up to be responsible, respectful, loving and mature adults. One of the key pillars of becoming such an adult is to learn how to manage feelings, cope with emotions and responsibly communicate those emotions. Emotional maturity is a process, and emotional control comes with time and practice.
We parents can help our teens manage their emotions by:
- Tending to our own emotions first – Parenting a tween or even a teen calls for us to first take responsibility for our own emotional wellbeing. Our kids learn from us so learning and modeling emotional intelligence gives them a good example to emulate. Emotional intelligence calls for self-awareness—accepting that you have emotions, recognizing them, managing them in healthy ways and also understanding how your emotions might affect others.
- Creating an emotionally expressive environment for teens – Teens need to learn that having emotions is part of life and that it’s okay to express their feelings. Your home is the perfect place for them to learn this. Allow them the freedom to say how they feel without being shut down, shamed or embarrassed for having those feelings in the first place. Cultivating an environment of open communication, and giving your teens privacy and personal space goes a long way towards helping them get comfortable with their emotions.
- Teaching teens emotional regulation skills – Explain to your teens that while having intense emotions such as anger, frustration or grief is normal, those feelings don’t excuse bad behavior. Help them find healthy ways of expressing and releasing these intense feelings. For instance, they could try exercising (running, kickboxing using punching bags, etc.), expressive artwork, journaling, yoga or even going for a walk when agitated can help them calm down when in the throes of strong emotions.
- Suspending your judgment of emotions – When our teens have emotional outbursts and otherwise act out, we are quick to label that as good or bad, negative or positive. As a result, our teens learn to either suppress their feelings or keep acting out as they seek attention. None of these reactions is useful. What if we instead viewed emotions and outbursts as ways of communication, indicating how our teens feel? This would allow us to take a step back, try to understand what caused those emotions in the first place and respond with compassion.
- Validating our teens’ feelings – It’s important to show our teens that we understand what they’re experiencing or going through. For instance, instead of telling your teen that she’s overreacting say, “I see that you’re angry about what your friend said today.” This shows her that you were listening, that you understand and you’re ready to help her cope.
Teens are prone to emotional outbursts but responding with empathy and understanding can help them learn to accept their feelings. Together, parents and teens can find positive, healthy ways to manage those strong emotions.
Tyler enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative designs. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on:Twitter | LinkedIn
I am always thankful to have Tyler Jacobson write for my blog because he covers a topic that I am not yet familiar with: teenagers.
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