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Kids go through an enormous number of changes once they hit adolescence. Not only are they growing and maturing physically, but their brains are evolving at an incredible rate too. The frontal cortex of a teenager’s brain is restructured and new synapses and connections which help the brain make decisions, exercise self-control, reason and manage emotions are being formed every day. The human brain does not reach maturity until the mid-20’s and until that time, although your teenager may look grown-up, they are still not processing emotions and decisions in the same way in which a mature adult would.
One of the most common side effects of this stage in life are the ways in which teens make decisions and react to emotions. Teenagers may react in anger or show difficulty in controlling themselves emotionally. When you combine this with their drive towards independence and a need to test the boundaries which they have lived within, you tend to have a situation where conflicts between parents and teens escalate.
It is really hard for a parent to have to deal with a child who used to be loving and trusting and now is angry, unhappy and hostile. Parents often feel hurt and disappointed by the unreasonable and unfair behaviour which they perceive in their children. Teens feel confused, scared, angry and frustrated. It’s a difficult situation but you need to hang in there. Continue to care about your teens, keep interacting despite the unpleasantness, continue to ask about their lives and to be there for them even when they shut you out and pull away. It’s the parents who can stay with their kids through this time that are best able to pull through and save the relationship even as everything else changes.
Recognise that all this anger and unhappiness is not necessarily personal. It’s just a function of the stage your teens are in and the way in which they perceive the world. Take the issue seriously, but don’t think that it is a reflection on your inability to parent them effectively.
Just as you expect your teens to respect you and to behave appropriately with you, your teens are growing up and aspire to be treated with respect too. Model what respect should look like and treat your teens with respect when they demonstrate mature behaviours. This means that you should not scream and yell at them, give ultimatums, make fun of them or resort to physical or verbal abuse even when you feel very angry and upset. As an adult, you have more tools for self-control at your disposal, and when you model your ability to use them in your own interactions, you show your teens what maturity should look like.
Remember that this is not a battle with your teenager. This is not about you vs them, because once you feel you need to “win”, then you are casting your kids as the “enemy”. No parent really thinks that, so even though it might feel like a fight, take a step back and don’t think of it in those terms. It’s not about winning, it’s about helping your teens understand where they need to be in order to develop into well-balanced, socially adjusted and positive adults. So not matter what happens, stay calm and keep remember your objectives whenever you get into an argument.
Some parents confuse accountability with control. Accountability means that you allow your teens to make decisions and if they make the wrong decisions, they will need to deal with the consequences. Control, tends to happen when parents try to prevent their kids from making mistakes by insisting that their kids follow the decisions which they feel will allow them to succeed.
You need to make your teens accountable for their actions, but you need to understand that in doing so, you will give up some degree of control. This is natural and a part of the growing process. There are of course, some things in which control continues to be important. Specifically, any behaviours which might endanger your teenager’s health or life such as drug abuse and criminal activities.
You don’t have to argue over everything which your teen does. Decide what’s really important and what’s just irritating you because it’s not the way you would usually do something. For example, is your teen’s messy closet really important? Would you rather they behave responsibly and finish their homework before going out with their friends over the weekend? You cannot spend all your time arguing over their lifestyle choices. If you do that, there will be no time left to bond with your teen and to build positive and happy opportunities for interaction. So pick your battles carefully and choose to walk away from those which don’t matter.
Help your teenagers to relax. Whether it’s meditation, yoga, a walk in the park or a private space of their own where they can go to unwind, teach your kids how to let go of their more intense emotions. Learning techniques like this can help to counter the effects of anger and frustration which they might experience.
Help them to lead a healthy lifestyle. When the body is tired and poorly nourished the brain is affected too. A lack of exercise and sleep contribute to exhaustion and stress. Even as adults we tend to experience poorer self-control under these conditions, as such, it’s even more difficult for teenagers.
Sometimes teens hit out because they are unable to express themselves well. For kids in this situation, helping them to improve their social skills could make a difference. Talk about how they can express their feelings, needs and wants in a positive way. Help them to join a team sport or activity with other kids, find ways for them to spend time with older kids who you think are good role models and whom your teens might look up to.
This type of therapy involves helping your teen to understand what situations trigger anger within themselves. When they understand why and when they are likely to feel angry, they are more able to take steps to recognise what might be happening and then to tell themselves to step back and control the anger better. This type of therapy is often guided by a counsellor or a mental health specialist, but it can be extremely helpful for teens with anger management issues which you are unable to address by yourself.
Many teens experience some degree of depression during adolescence. This can often show up as sadness or anger or both at the same time. What your teens are going through is real and whilst it is normal, it does have the potential to turn into a more serious problem.
Recognise that sometimes, your teens’ extreme behaviour could be a cry for help. If you notice some or more of these signs, you should consider seeking professional help from a doctor, counsellor or mental health professional.
Tags: Teenage Issues /Disciplining
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