The Adolescent Emotional Meltdown: Tips for Parents
Have you ever stood back in awe as your adolescent emotionally melts down? You watch your child in wonder as they proceed to completely lose it over a seemingly insignificant issue.
What is happening here?
If you ask them why they are so upset, they probably cannot tell you. They’re as surprised as you are by their outburst.
Do they really feel as emotional on the inside as they are demonstrating on the outside? The answer is yes.
I’ve mentioned before how during the teen years, the adolescent brain is going through a time of rapid development. The emotional part of their brain that is buried deep inside the brain is very sensitive to stress and so their response to what seem like insignificant events tends to be exaggerated.
As we learn more and more about the profound changes taking place in the adolescent brain, it is becoming clear that the emotion they are expressing on the outside is what they are actually feeling on the inside.
If we are honest with ourselves, we all know what it feels like when we have one of those “out of control” moments. Hopefully, they don’t happen very often but the turmoil they create can last for a long time.
Can you image what it must feel like for an adolescent who is having numerous “out of control” moments in a day or in a week? Some of these kids actually start to think they have emotional problems. If they are a boy, they start to wonder if they have “girl-like” feelings, since the stereotype is that girls are more emotional.
Here are three suggestions to help during their emotional meltdown.
- Try not to participate in the emotional outburst. Remain calm and wait for the intensity to diminish. Adding your own emotional reaction to theirs will likely raise the level of agitation rather than reduce it.
- Suggest that your adolescent takes a little time out away from everyone. Encourage them that you want to hear their needs but with a little less emotion. This isn’t quite the same as losing your own cool and sending them to their room in a huff. Remember tip number 1: don’t participate in the outburst, but instead give them the freedom to experience their feelings in a safe space, then come back to you to communicate their issues calmly.
- Take them seriously. They actually feel what they are expressing and so if you minimize the situation, it will only make it worse. Acknowledge that you see they are upset about something important to them and you want to hear about it. Remind them that when they feel less upset, it will be easier to understand what you need to do in response to their needs.
This is a confusing time for your adolescent and for you as the parent.
Let me encourage you. I have had the opportunity to watch lots of kids mature into young adults and the stories are inspiring. Most adolescents make it through this turbulent time and go on to be emotionally balanced adults. There might still be some scars in their relationships from the meltdowns they experienced but hopefully, many of these episodes will become funny reflections down the road.
Stay the course and hold onto a positive vision of them as a productive young adult. You are NOT in a hopeless situation with your adolescent. You’ll see gradual improvement along the way and then one day you will notice that your adolescent is different. They will respond to you with more respect and actually talk about what they are feeling.
Once this happens, you will know that you have made it through to the other side and you can congratulate yourself for a parenting job successfully navigated!
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