by Hillary Rinehardt and Cheyenne Hunt
It’s universal. The teenage years are a turbulent, troubling time for adolescents all over the world. In fact, to teach this age group, teachers are required to take multiple courses on how to handle the moods of a classroom full of hormonal teenagers. While these courses explore adolescent brain theories and coping mechanisms in depth, the takeaway involves a few simple tips that any adult can use when dealing with a teen’s mood swings.
Patience, Patience, Patience
The first key tip any adult needs to understand about handling teens’ moods is that patience is of the utmost importance. Adolescents often deal with seemingly over-dramatic and ridiculous stress, and they just want someone to listen to them. This can be in the form of simply making eye contact when your teen is speaking to you, or asking “What is wrong? Do you want to talk about it?” Teenagers, just like adults, need affirmation that someone is on their side and listening to them. However, if your teens do not want to talk (and often, they may not), it is important not to push the subject and force them into closing themselves off. Rather, simply let them know with sincerity that you are here to listen if they ever want to talk about what’s going on in their life.
On this same note, it is important to give them space. It is easy to want to know absolutely everything that is going on and fix it, but teenagers are growing into adulthood and trying to learn to cope with things on their own. It is important to give them that learning space—and trust that they will go to an adult if there is something truly wrong.
When a teenager’s mood escalates, it is easy to try to be the power-house and show them that they are not an adult yet, and that they should listen to the adult in the conversation. However, it is important that the adult does not show his/her frustration. This can come in the form of a loud sigh, yelling, demeaning, rolling eyes, or walking away from the teenager. This may be the hardest thing for adults to learn to control. Such aggressive actions can escalate the situation. Joyce Meyer once said, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait—it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” If you find yourself getting upset with a teen, the best thing to do is to remind yourself that you are the adult in this situation; and that the teen will remember how you react. Your reaction is teaching them how to treat others, and how they should act when they get frustrated with others. Yelling, calling names, or physical aggression will show the teen that those actions are okay toward their peers, or other adults.
Recognize that Nobody’s Perfect
In the face of frustration, it is easy to make mistakes. If you find yourself losing your temper with a teen, it is okay! Apologies go a long way with adolescents. One of the most important things that adults can do after a mistake is admit that they reacted poorly, and that they will try harder to handle their emotions in the future. These actions show a developing adolescent brain that it is acceptable to make mistakes, but it is also important to admit to these mistakes and attempt to rectify the situation.
Every teenager is different, and there is never a one-size-fits-all solution to handling people of any age. However, as an adult, it is important to reflect upon your own actions. Adolescents simply model what they see, and you are their role model for handling uncontrolled emotions.