If you’re the parent of a teen you’ll likely be familiar with the sound of stomping footsteps and slamming doors. You can end up being afraid to confront negative behaviour in case it results in an explosion of rage, and be tempted to tread on eggshells around them.
Instead, it can help to understand what causes anger in teenagers, and how to help them deescalate their feelings.
A developing brain
Teenager’s brains have not yet developed fully, and so rather than engaging the part that adults use to make rational decisions, they are running on emotions instead. These emotions are easily triggered and difficult to regulate. A simple disagreement, therefore, can become a nasty rant or furious episode, and your child can struggle to calm down.
When your child is in a state of heightened emotion, it can be best to allow them 10 minutes to cool off. This is different from a ‘time out’ that you might give a toddler during a tantrum- you don’t want to give the message to your child that their emotions are bad or wrong. Instead, suggest that you both have ten minutes of quiet to calm down- go to separate rooms. Young people might want to relax during this period by looking at a book or magazine, or spending time with a self-soothe box.
Life can be stressful for teens, particularly in these times of social media and uncertainty in the world. You can provide them with a way to feel better in the form of a self-soothe box. You can make one using an old shoebox, and encourage them to fill it with anything that brings them joy- maybe photos of happy days, or pets, a beloved cuddly toy. They can add in some items that help them relax- perhaps something that smells of lavender, a fidget toy, or a stress ball. They can pull the self-soothe box out whenever their emotions are overwhelming them.
Understand your teenager
Teen’s brains lean towards being impulsive and reactive. When their emotions are flooding their brains, it is hard for them to listen to reason or think straight. Therefore, if an argument is continuing without resolution it may be best to step away temporarily. Remember that their brain is wired differently than yours, which is why you are struggling to get through. When they are calmer, you may have more success.
Help facilitate ways to release their emotions
If your child is angry and upset, help them find ways to release those feelings. Perhaps they could punch a pillow (a good way to release frustration without causing damage!). They could also scribble out their thoughts and emotions in a notebook.
Teenagers can sometimes feel more separate from their parents than before- with their own social life and need for time alone. However, the need for connection and understanding is as great as ever. It can be tricky though, to know how to engage your teen in conversation. Try to find a neutral place to talk- maybe while on a car journey, or walking the dog together. This offers a confrontation-free, easy-going opportunity for you both to chat, and your teen should hopefully be more inclined to talk openly.
Help them understand their feelings
In the midst of a teenage rage, it can be easy to take their words personally, or become defensive. However, aim to look between the words at what they might be feeling- and name it. For example, ‘I can see you’re frustrated’, or ‘I understand you’re disappointed’. It can help your child get a handle on their feelings while feeling overwhelmed.