Few parenting challenges are as difficult as trying to deal with a teenager who is upset. It could be over a test or some other teenage crisis. But what’s more challenging is that, as a parent, you might not be in a position to offer the kind of support your teenage child requires at this point. You can easily make mistakes.
Usually, we jump to conclusions. When a friend mistreats your child, you immediately ask,” what did you do to make him/her do this to you?” Such interventions seem to make things worse.
Never mind that years of being a parent have given you a lot of experience and education on how to handle such situations. You have the best intentions at heart, but the results are often not a reflection of this fact.
Personally, I have had to deal with a few major teenage meltdowns. Like most people, I had no sure way of dealing with these kinds of crises.
Then I met people who were discussing how they often deal with the teenage crises they have been in at some point or another.
But through this discussion, one great realization was revealed to me – it’s all about how a teenager’s brain works.
During early adolescence, the brain gets remodeled so that it has more power and efficiency.
The parts that handle emotions and other primitive functions are upgraded first, starting from the age of about 10 years. Other advanced regions, particularly those behind the forehead, are upgraded last, and this may go on until the age of 25 years.
Because all this is going on, teenagers have to handle a lot of things. They can be very reasonable when they are calm, however, when emotional situations hit them, they can get easily overwhelmed as the higher-brain functions are not developed enough to help keep these runaway emotions in check.
But what can you do as a parent to get things back on track?
A perfect solution is to let the teenager calm down first so that the emotional distress goes down. From there, the teenager can start thinking rationally again, and you can work your way out of the crisis through a discussion after that.
Understand that there is nothing you can do to control the emotions that teenagers go through, and neither can they. You just have to let them run their course, and eventually, they'll settle on their own.
So, don’t launch into an interrogation as to what the problem is or start offering suggestions immediately after a teenager has been through a crisis.
It only takes a few moments for the storm in their minds to go down. From there, you might even be surprised to see the kid offer details about the crisis and even offering suggestions as to what they can do about the issue.
At this point, you can use your wisdom to offer further guidance, because the teenager is rational once more, and is ready to see sense.
But it’s very important not to put the focus on the fact that the teenager is upset. Instead, let them feel or know that they have a right to be upset, as that is the only way to get to a point where a solution to the problem would be welcome or even useful.
Overreacting will only make the crisis worse. So, when your teenage child is having a breakdown, it is not time to issue threats or ultimatums. Trying to offer solutions, however well-intended, will not help either.
Your child is not broken, he/she is slowly recreating who they are so that they can finally mature.
So, when you see a teen in a crisis, the first thing you should do is calm them down. Everything else comes later.