How to Support Your Teenage Daughter When She is Upset: Listen First, Then Ask.
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It's a Tuesday evening, and my daughter just arrived from a friends house, where they had planned an evening of tree decorating and baking pizzas. Oh how I love the holidays!
As soon as she came in the front door I heard her stomp down the hallway towards her room and slam the bedroom door. I went in search of her, only to find her crumpled into a ball, sobbing her poor little heart out. I asked her what was wrong and through her sobs, she managed to snap "I just want to be left alone!" Immediately concerned, I asked the usual questions "did someone hurt you or say something mean to you?" She indicated that was not the problem, "just leave me alone!"
This scenario begs the question that we as parents ask ourselves every day - How do I support my teenager when she is so obviously disturbed? There are so many books and articles available on teenage behavior, written by psychologists, pediatricians, and many other health professionals. They all seem to offer similar advice; make sure to be there for your children, support them in their daily endeavors and future plans, and make sure they are getting adequate rest, and exercise. Be sure they are following a healthy diet too! These are all good things that we can do for ourselves and for each other.
Everyone has different parenting styles. What works for one child might not work for the next. Some parents are overly involved in their children's lives, and demand answers and constant respect. Some parents ignore their children when they misbehave, while others will divert with a treat or fun activity. Because children (and all human beings) are so unique in personality, it makes sense to evaluate each individual based on things like temperament, and level of patience when faced with frustration. It's also important to consider the different ages and stages children may be going through at any given time.
With an upset teenager, large, obscene amounts of drama are often involved. Steam will roll out their ears and horns will grow on their heads (humor helps here, please keep that in mind). Being a teenager is tough, and it is not fun; we've all been there
It's best to approach the teenager from a place of calm, with lots of love and unconditional acceptance. This is all about your attitude as the adult. This approach should get them to at least calm down enough to communicate the issue at hand; after which might be a good time to ask if they would like to talk about how they are feeling, or if they would like your advice. Yes, you read that correctly, I said "ask." Teenagers tend to carry around the attitude that "no one is going to tell me what to do." Asking them if they want to talk gives them a choice. This shows that you not only respect them as individuals, but yourself as well. I don't know about you, but if I'm already upset and someone starts nagging, yelling, or demanding answers, it's rather difficult for me to feel any respect for them at that very moment. Be the adult and be calm! Remember, no one is perfect. Sometimes just providing an ear is good enough while other times the teen may surprise you and ask about similar past experiences you may have had which they can identify with. As long as you remain calm and don't interrogate them, teenagers will usually open up about what is going on.
I want my daughter to feel safe enough to confide in me and ask for advice. I may not be the world's best parent, but if I can accomplish this, then I have given her the tools she needs to have healthy, mutually respectful relationships with those around her.
What happened to her fun evening? I still don't know, but I will do as she asks and just leave her alone for now. I will re-visit the conversation in the morning after a much needed nights sleep has been had and we have picked up some yummy hot chocolate on the drive to school.