Parenting your Teenager
Parenting a teenager can be both rewarding and equally challenging, however when your teen becomes violent, depressed, starts abusing alcohol or drugs, or engages in other destructive behaviours, it can become overwhelming. As a parent you may you may begin to despair over failed attempts to communicate with your child. You may be met with open defiance and endless arguing. You may live in fear of your teen’s violent mood swings and explosive anger. Parenting a distressed or troubled teen can often seem like an unmanageable task, however there are steps you can take to ease the pressure you and your teen experience and help your teen transition into a happier, more successful young adult.
The teenage lifecycle can be a very confusing time for the most part. As a teenager you are faced with the struggle of shifting from childhood to young adulthood. You are faced with new decisions and new challenges. At this stage of the life cycle a teen begins to assert their independence and seeks to shape their own identity. Many experience behavioural changes during this time that can seem strange and unpredictable to parents and those outside the peers circle. As a parent you are mourning the departure of your sweet, well behaved child who once couldn’t bear to be separated from you but now won’t be seen anywhere with you. A teen who rolls their eyes to heaven at the mere hint of a conversation or suggestion brewing. As difficult as this behaviour can be for parents to endure, they are the actions of a normal teenager.
If your teen is particularly angry or anxious there are tools a parent can utilise to try and create a healthier, supportive engagement;
Try to understand the trigger behind the anger – Is your child anxious or sad? Does he or she feel under pressure? Do they feel inadequate compared to peers? Does your child need someone to listen to them in a non-judgemental way?
Establish Boundaries – when your teen is calm you can have a conversation with them about feeling angry, naming that it is okay at times to feel angry but there are healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with that anger and acting out can have consequences.
Support your teen to find alternative ways to regulate – you can explore self-care and self-regulation though engagement in exercise, diet, sleep patterns. For example when someone is feeling angry listening to loud music or going to a fitness class can help release some of this anger making it more manageable. Some find art and creative writing a beneficial way to express themselves.
Recognise the warning signs – does your teen experience headaches before an angry outburst? Do they start to pace up and down or become irate before a particular class or activity? Recognising the signs allows for one to take steps to diffuse the outburst.
Give your child space to retreat, allowing your teen to retreat to a place that feels safe for them without been followed and given out to can be soothing and just what they need to calm down before engaging in a calm conversation with them.
Take steps to manage your own anger; as difficult as it may seem at times a parent has to remain calm no matter how much your teen provokes you. If you or other members of your family act out aggressively your teen will naturally assume that these are appropriate ways to express his or her anger also. Remember that children and teens are very sensitive/alert to what is going on around them and situational factors can influence how they react or behave.
Please acknowledge that teens are still trying to learn how to regulate their emotions. Their experience of anger can manifest in one of two ways. They can act out in which instance you may notice obvious signs or outward anger such as shouting, hitting walls, throwing tantrums, swearing, changes if tone of voice, or symptoms of anxiety such as difficulty catching breath or becoming panicked, sweaty palms, change in complexion. The alternative means of self-regulating can manifest internally. This type of manifestation can be one that goes unnoticed for some time until your teen implodes. Signs to look out for are withdrawing from peers, avoiding activities once enjoyed, becoming irritable, disturbed sleep patterns, change in eating behaviors to name but a few. These can be signs that your teen is struggling with some aspect of life and may require further sensitive investigation.