Melt-Down Or Blow-Up: Helping Your Teen In The Aftermath
April 20, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Mental Health, Parenting, Teens · Permalink

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By Annie Fox, M.Ed.

If your teen is upset and willing to talk to you about what’s going on, these steps can help you help him/her calm down and figure out the next best move. If your teen is not yet ready to talk, respect that and check back with him/her later. If your son/daughter is unwilling to talk to you for whatever reason and your gut tells you they need to talk to someone… get the help of another adult that you and your child trust.

1. Encourage your teen to ACKNOWLEDGE what he’s feeling and what triggered it. He isn’t required to say, “I’m stressed/pissed/worried, etc. and here’s why.” You certainly don’t want to pressure him by insisting he puts feelings into words. More stress is not what your teen needs right now! What matters most is that your teen tells himself the truth, AKA “I’m upset about _______.” That’s much better than pretending he’s not upset when clearly he is. Also, naming the emotion and the trigger helps to move your child from a purely reactive place into a more reflective (thinking) place. Exactly where you want him to go.

2. Your teen needs to STOP. Tell her calmly and firmly to put on the brakes. This is especially important if she’s in the middle of an argument on the phone, online, or in the real world. Continuing to fight will only escalate the situation (on both sides). No good will come of it and your teen is more likely to do or say something she will later regret. You are more likely to do the same. So stop yourself from reacting then tell her to STOP. If she won’t, you may have to take away the phone or computer for an enforced time out. If she’s arguing with you, simply remove yourself from the situation by saying, “I need a break. Let’s talk about this later when we’ve both calmed down.” Then make sure you revisit the conversation soon.

3. Tell your teen to CALM DOWN. Assuming he’s put on the brakes on his behavior, he now needs to chill in the emotion department. If your teen asks “Why should I?!” The simple answer is: “Because it’s the best thing you can do right now for yourself and the people around you.”

4. Take a BREAK. Or take a walk. Take a nap. Take a shower. Breathe. Count to 50. This advice works for you as well as for your teen. Make sure your teen knows that whatever it takes to calm down is good as long as it’s legal, healthy, respectful, and not against your core values. Make sure you model those rules in your own life. Explain that if your teen won’t calm down, stress will control them and they won’t get to Step #5 where solving their problem really begins.

5. THINK about your goal. Ask your (now calmer) teen: “What are you trying to do?” In other words: “You’ve got a situation here… what’s your idea for the best outcome?”

6. Ask: “Does someone need to change in order for you to achieve your goal?” If someone else must start doing something different then your teen’s goal is out of her hands. To pursue it is to set oneself up for more stress! Remind your teen that all we can ever control in life is our own response to what’s going on. When your teen can identify something she personally can work on, she’s ready to proceed to #7…

7. Ask: “What are your OPTIONS for reaching your goal?” Help your teen make a list of all the options for improving the situation. For each option, encourage him to predict what might happen as a result of choosing that option. Don’t evaluate your teen’s options! Keep your mouth closed unless he asks for your opinion. Guide him by asking: Will what you’re thinking of doing create more or less stress? In you? In a friend? In a group? Important questions to consider before any action is taken! This is an exercise in critical thinking. Let your teen take the lead, think through his options and come to his own conclusions. Your job is to facilitate the process not run it.

8. Ask your teen to CHOOSE the option that best HELPS the situation. Advise her that options which intentional hurt or embarrass other people, anger them or put you in danger will only make things worse. They’ll also create more stress and will bring your teen back to Step #1. Instead, encourage her to move forward. HINT: The option that makes the best sense for improving the situation is usually accompanied by feelings of empowerment and increased self-respect, if not immediately, then in the long run.

9. TAKE ACTION. Your teen should be ready to act. A viable (and mature) course of action may be to opt out of an ongoing argument. In other words, to choose “not take the bait.” In many teen social dramas, this is often an excellent move for your child to decide on. On the surface, it may look like doing nothing, but it actually is accomplishing a lot. And it often takes tremendous courage and/or self-control.

10. CONGRATULATE your teen for calming down and thinking things through. That’s so much healthier and more mature than reacting without thinking.

Annie Fox, M.Ed. is an award winning author, educator, and online adviser for parents and teens. http://anniefox.com/ Read excerpts from her books: Too Stressed to Think? and the new Middle School Confidential™ series. Download (free) her entire book: Teen Survival Guide to Dating & Relating. http://teensurvivalguide.com

Listen to her podcast series “Family Confidential: Secrets of Successful Parenting” FamilyConfidential.com

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Comments

  1. April 20th, 2010 | 2:26 pm

    Good advice; hope all read the article above. Meanwhile:
    School’s over soon!
    Lucky you!
    School is stressful
    Vacations are stressful
    You and your kids can try my
    Help Me Cope! quiz
    http://help-me-cope.com
    W.R. Taylor, M.D.

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