Life with a troubled teen can be difficult for the whole family. The poor choices and bad attitude of one individual can create ripples of anger, blame or even jealousy that impact parents, siblings and, on occasion, extended family members such as care-providing grandparents.
Unfortunately, these negative feelings can hinder communications and challenge the family’s ability to move forward. While recovery is based on connecting with and expressing emotions, it’s also all too easy to get stuck in a loop of resentment, hurt and frustration.
Don’t fall into a confrontational pattern — pitting yourself against a combative teen is a lose-lose situation. It’s more productive to sidestep anger and try to adopt a “you and me against the problem” attitude that lets her know that even if you’re not happy with her behavior or choices, you’re in this together.
It’s also important to think before you speak. It’s tempting to wound our teens with our words, especially when they strike first and inflame retaliation. Avoid sarcasm and belittling comments; instead, keep comments respectful and calm.
Set an example of controlled and cool behavior — don’t allow yourself to be baited into an emotional escalation. Keep conversation volume within normal speaking range and your body language relaxed and non-confrontational. Stay seated, and don’t loom over your teen or invade her personal space. The goal is not to intimidate or threaten, just to command attention and communication.
Stop talking, stop trying to prove a point, and take a break. It’s OK to walk away, take a time out and allow everyone space to calm down.
In addition, try to avoid the “I told you so” trap. It can feel satisfying for a moment, but it’s not a good way to diffuse a confrontation with an angry or upset adolescent. Don’t worry about driving any points home while emotions are running high — instead, wait until the heat of the moment has passed, and calmly revisit the situation.
Finally, keep a positive picture of your teen in your heart. Try to offset your current feelings of frustration with memories of happier times or recollections of your teen’s good qualities. Try to continue to provide positive reinforcement and praise good choices or behavior as soon as you see it. Connect with your teen whenever possible — join her on the couch for a movie, grab a towel and help her do the dishes, or ask her to talk a walk after dinner. Show an interest, and make an effort to create happy moments to balance the troubled times.
To learn more ways to sidestep anger and manage emotional confrontations with your troubled teen, contact us today.