Managing Your Teen's Big Emotions!

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The biggest feedback I get from my preteen and teen clients is that they want their parents to hear them, not just listen. You might be confused - isn't listening the same as hearing? Sometimes, yes. But sometimes you might listen to what your child is saying and miss an opportunity to actually hear them.

There's a word for this, and it's something that we, as humans, want and need: Validation. We all want to feel heard and understood. Validating does not mean that you necessarily agree, it simply means that you hear them. We don't always need someone to fix our issue or problem solve with us, sometimes we just need someone to hear what we are saying and how we are feeling. This might mean that when your child comes home from school visibly upset, don't ask lots of questions. A simple "it looks like something is bothering you. I'm here when you want to talk about it" might be just what he or she needs to hear. Other examples:

- "The tone of your voice and your body language tell me that you're angry about my decision. That's ok." 
- "Your tears show me that you're having a hard time with this right now. Do you want to talk about it? Or should we find a distraction to get it off your mind?"
- "You're really mad about that. I would be too!"

The key here is echoing back what you're seeing in them. Sometimes your child or teen might not even know what they are feeling, or they get so wrapped up in the intensity of their emotions and find it hard to take a step back. You echoing the facts of what you're seeing or hearing will help them build emotional intelligence and connect more with knowing what they are feeling. 

As parents, we don't want to see our kids hurting, so we try to fix the problem for them. She's crying because of something a kid said at school? Simple answer! "Don't cry, it's feeding into what they are saying. You can talk to a teacher, or we can practice what to say to this kid." Even though problem-solving with your child has the best intentions and teaches them a healthy skill, sometimes it's just not what they need. Not in the moment at least. Problem-solving when your child is upset leads to them feeling invalidated. And when we feel invalidated, it makes us want to hold onto our feelings more to prove how we feel. So when you say, "don't worry about that! there's nothing to be upset about," your child hears "you should not feel this way." Then they're left with the conflict of 'i do feel this way, but i shouldn't' which makes their emotions stick harder (and creates secondary emotions like guilt, shame, or embarrassment). 

Our emotions are always valid. You don't have to agree with your child when she's mad that you said she's not allowed to go out this weekend. In fact, you can absolutely disagree with her. But it doesn't mean that she can't - or doesn't - feel mad about it. 

Managing your teen's big emotions means managing your own, too. For more information on ways to manage both your teen's emotions and your own (and for more detailed parenting tips!), leave your email below to get our {FREE} Parent Guide delivered right to your inbox.