What To Do When Your Teen’s Upset
Your teen is going to get upset. The question is how will you handle it?
This is a hard one for moms. We hate to see our teens unhappy, so we jump in and try to fix it, but we make it worse.
Your teen needs what you need when you get upset.
What do you need from your partner when you get upset?
Do you want advice? Do you want to be cut off and told it’s not a big deal? Do you want him to tell you to go make him dinner? Do you want him to act like it’s no big deal?
Do you want him to say I know how you feel before you told him your story?
The answer is a big fat NO.
So if you do some of the same things to your daughter, she’s not going to like it either.
What you and your daughter want in those circumstances is understanding.
Understanding is what calms your soul. Your daughter needs understanding before she can receive your advice.
This is an excerpt from Chapter 6 in my upcoming book Dial Down the Drama. This is a tool you can use to help your daughter calm down when she is in lots of pain.
***This tool works when you are not the source of her pain.
Calm Down Conversation
When your daughter is upset, use the Calm-Down Conversation. I have broken down the different components of this for teaching purposes. In reality, these components are organic; they flow and don’t always happen sequentially:
1. Let her talk and you listen. No matter how ridiculous or distorted the story is, just listen. If you are afraid she will talk all night long, set a timer for 20 minutes.
2. Don’t interrupt her or give her any unsolicited advice. She does not want advice right now; she wants you to understand and empathize.
3. Give her non-verbal cues that you are tuned in. Make eye contact or nod. Don’t text or answer the phone. (Your daughter needs this message more than you.)
4. Be curious but don’t pry. Being curious is an inside job. It’s about your attitude. You put yourself in a mindset where you are curious about your daughter’s heart, mind, and soul. This is a chance to get to know her world and how she perceives certain situations. Being curious is not invasive. You are following her story and clarifying it a little more. Ask, “What did the other girls think?” or “What did the teacher do then?” When you are curious, you are not up to anything except understanding her experience. Prying, on the other hand, is invasive. It starts from a judgmental place. You are going into monitor mode – “Were they drinking?” “When did your teacher assign the project?” “What kids were at the party?” – and she knows it. When your daughter thinks you’re prying, she lashes out at you or retreats into her girl cave.
5. Reflect back on her feelings. Use comments like, “That sounds hard,” “Wow, she did lose it,” or “That was rude.” This is difficult. You want to say, “Get a grip. Chill out. It’s not a big deal.” But this would invalidate her feelings. The paradox is, when you show empathy by reflecting on her feelings, she can move past them.
6. Take her side. I can hear you saying, “There’s no way. I can’t take her side. She’s wrong.” I know this feels counterintuitive, but the purpose of this conversation is to help her calm down. She calms down when she knows someone cares and is on her team. Try to see things from her perspective. It would be hard if you had just gotten home from a big soccer tournament and had to write a 10-page paper and another big project was due the next day, and to top it off, your best friend Jane just talked trash about you. Take her side by saying something like, “You do have a lot going on. It’s overwhelming. I can’t believe Jane acted that way.” In the next conversation with her, you can talk about procrastinating.