Which stage of your child’s development would you say is the most difficult? Many parents would advise that the teenage years can be so difficult mentally. Moodiness, arguing, and big emotion roller coaster can be some of the challenges that arise in this age. The interesting news is that the moodiness of the teenage years is not the “raging hormones” we all thought. It’s actually changes in the brain that are critical as they make the transition to adulthood. The brain is doing a lot of housekeeping, reorganizing, and different brain systems are coming online all during puberty. Teenage years are the time right before adulthood that they need to practice their thinking skills with arguing (frustrating I know), reasoning (wanting to feel heard), and independence (doing things for themselves) all to get ready for the transition into adulthood. Dr. Dan Siegel in his book Brain Storm writes, “the work of adolescence—the testing of boundaries, the passion to explore what is unknown and exciting—can set the stage for the development of core character traits that will enable adolescents to go on to lead great lives of adventure and purpose.”
A key piece to remember as they are pushing you away, is that it is important for teens to maintain, a close and healthy attachment to parents in order to have a successful, and healthy lifestyle. As the dance of push and pull evolve it can be hard for the parent to stay grounded and not join the teens big emotions. Dr. Siegel discusses in that emotions can take about 90 seconds to rise and fall, so that when a parent gets triggered by a teen the adult should wait 90 seconds. Next take focused breath’s (breath in 1, 2, 3, 4, pause, out 1, 2, 3,4). Then choose a response that is teaching them, a message they can hear. You may even need to step away from the conversation. “I am feeling frustrated right now, and going to walk away, this conversation isn’t going anywhere, I need to think and cool down and come back to you later.” The benefit of taking a break is that you most likely won’t say something you regret, and you model impulse control and decision making both important skills.
Tips for cultivating your relationship with your teen.
“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people”, said Fred Rogers.
ROSE LAPIERE, LPC, RPT-S, ACS