|The trousers she was hoping to wear today are still in the wash, nothing else will do so now she refuses to go out.|
|She dropped a couple of marks in the last maths test, so now she’s declared herself useless and seems completely unable to tackle a homework that she’d have done easily last week.|
|She’s had plans to go to a concert with her best friend for weeks but suddenly she’s planning to go with someone she barely knows because of something her best friend posted on social media.|
Is she over-reacting? Well, yes, if her world view looked like yours. But in the teen years the world does not look like it did as a child, or how it will as an adult. Teens’ brains are under reconstruction and they really do feel things more intensely. At the same time, they don’t have the perspective that life experience brings. Teens need our support in managing their intense feelings, but they’re teens so you need to offer your support sensitively.
Do you remember the broken biscuit she wept over as a toddler? She was too young to understand your reasoning that it made no difference to the taste and it would break as soon as she bit into it anyway. In her toddler’s mind, the biscuit was ruined.
Now, in her teens, she’s in similar territory. Her feelings engulf her and she doesn’t yet have the perspective of an adult; she can’t see how not having her favourite trousers makes little difference in the bigger picture of her whole life, she just knows that it matters a lot to her right now. Telling her about the bigger picture doesn’t usually help.
What does she need from you?
|take her feelings seriously|
|know that her feelings are real and justified even when you can’t understand them|
|encourage her to talk while you just listen to her|
|don’t minimise her feelings, that will only mean she has to amp them up for you to take her seriously|
|know that she’s been helped by just telling you about how she’s feeling|
|don’t jump in with advice|
|even when she asks for your advice, pause and ask her first what she thinks would help|
|expect not to be able to make everything better for her|
|allow her time to feel, which shows her that you have faith that she can handle this|
|ask if there’s anything you can do that won’t make it worse|
|check back with her later to ask how she’s doing, showing that you’ve not forgotten even if she now seems fine|
Expect a few years of emotional intensity with your teen and rather than making her wrong for feeling as she does, help her to manage that intensity. After all, you’re the adult.
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