From navigating social circles to maintaining good grades for the future, it can be easy for teens to feel overwhelmed. While they encounter new and increasingly serious stakes in the future, your teen can make panicked or feverish bad decisions. This is why it’s important to prepare your child with strategies to deal with runaway emotions. Here are some tips we think can help you talk with your teen about handling their emotional reactions with thoughtfulness and tact.
- Set Your Priorities
When teens are finding their social footing, they might find it appealing to say “yes” to everything. Whether it’s going to a party or joining an additional club, the allure of being liked might end up pulling your teen away from their responsibilities. It can be stressful topit accommodating everyone against self-care. So how can your child effectively satisfy their wants and needs while still being a good friend?
One way your teen can sooth their willingness to please others is to figure out their priorities and set some limits. You might want to give them a list of questions to consider any time they feel the need to sign up for another commitment:
- Is there anything I need to do (first)?
- How does this activity interest me?
- Is this how I really feel, or am I agreeing just to please someone else?
- How can I best be a friend as myself?
You can also point out that your teen’s needs matter. If your teen is always trying to please everyone, it might be a sign their self-worth is in need of reassurance. They should know that good friends will respect their boundaries and aren’t owed an explanation when they hear “no.” Helping your teen build a sense of prioritization can help them address their needs and open up more free time.
- Step Back to Consider Negative Feedback
Nobody likes hearing that they did something wrong or made a mistake. Imagine how difficult it can be for teens who are still trying to figure out their identity, their friend groups, and how to manage responsibilities with increasingly serious consequences. If your teen takes criticism too personally, receiving negative feedback can diminish your child’s confidence and motivation in academic or social settings.
It might be helpful for your teen to get into the habit of taking a breath and evaluating feedback with an objective approach. One example of an objective response is to sort feedback into two categories: criticism and constructive criticism. Criticism is just disapproval devoid of insightful ways to improve. They can discard this type of feedback because, the truth is, it’s impossible to satisfy everyone’s opinion.
Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is focused on collaboration with steps to grow from mistakes. This distinction can save your teen from emotional discouragement. By taking an objective approach to criticism, your teen will shift from a negative inward lens to interpreting feedback with forward thinking.
- Don’t Overthink Confrontation
If your teen feels like they have been given an unfair grade or is uncomfortable with a friend’s behavior, they might feel like they have to stomach those emotions because self-assertion can be awkward. When your teen is unable to communicate how they feel, they could be at risk for bottling up their emotions and suffering through experiences to appease others. This is why it’s important to speak to your child about telling the truth and preparing them for potential outcomes.It can end up saving them a lot of time and stress.
You can prepare your teen to give feedback by showing them the dangers of overthinking. While it’s important to give forethought to how others are feeling and what experiences inform their actions, if your child gets caught up in projecting every potential reaction, overthinking can pacify their need to speak up. Your teen might benefit from recognizing some of the warning signs of overthinking: low confidence, never having enough information to make a decision, ignoring their feelings, and revisiting unanswerable questions such as, “What will they say? What will they think of me?”
In order to prevent overthinking, you can show your teen that predicting someone’s reaction to negative feedback is impossible. The only way to address their needs is to tolerate the unknowing and confront their peers directly. This will eliminate the guessing game and start a conversation that is productive.
- Don’t Play the Blame Game
Because teens are in a transition period from childhood to adulthood, it can be challenging for them to determine how much control they have over their lives. Your teen may face confusion about how much credit to take for their success and what responsibilities they hold for a lack thereof. This can make it difficult for your teen to know who they are. If teens don’t have a clear idea about what responsibilities they have, they might end up blaming figures of authority for when things go wrong in their life.
As curfews, homework assignments, and extracurricular activities start changing, your teen can be left wondering how much agency they have to make decisions that affect their wellbeing. This might be a good opportunity for you to go over a set list of your teen’s responsibilities. However basic or redundant it might seem, knowing this information can help your child prioritize everything they need to do. We recommend establishing an understanding of what your teen is expected to manage(and in what timeframe) as well as what they would like to have more control over. This way, they have no scapegoat for their obligations, and your child can demonstrate responsibility to leverage more autonomy.
- Know That It’s Okay to Say Sorry
When your teen makes a mistake and ends up hurting someone they care about, they might feel the urge to cling to denial for dear life. Their mindset can reflect an awkward rationale to avoid blame others for being hurt in the first place. “If I admit to it, that means there’s an understanding that I did something wrong and I will have this hanging over me forever.”If it’s left unaddressed, however, they can develop passive-aggressive tendencies and lose friends/family in the process.
You can show your child that, while it may not seem like it, apologizing is actually way easier than holding in guilt. If your teen knows that they’ve done something wrong, they can start to right their mistakes as soon as they express regret and start making amends. Taking accountability can demonstrate to others emotional maturity and a strong foundation for trust and mutual care.
Much like overthinking confrontation, apologizing can also be hard because of how we anticipate a negative response. The same advice follows for saying sorry. Plus, apologizing is the first step to healing a relationship that is strained from wrongdoing. If your child understands that apologies are a serious acknowledgement that also require actions to follow, it’ll signal to their friends/family that they care in the first place.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.