One can agree upon the fact that for most, teenage has been the most turbulent period in ones’ lives. This phase of transition when one is neither a child nor an adult can be quite a challenge and at times daunting. The insecurities, the anxiety, the spontaneous mood swings, the rage, the feeling of being misunderstood or not understood at all- yes, all those feelings that can be summarized as Teenage Angst.
And now probably your child is going through the same phase. Despite have been through the same, you might still find it difficult to handle the teenager in your house who going through gigantic physical, social, personal, and emotional changes.
This is the phase when figures of authority like parents, guardians, teachers etc suddenly become the enemies and the teen becomes the rebel. So, how does one deal with this situation?
Let us begin by understanding Teenage Angst
Teenage angst generally comprises of normal insecurity, conflict (both inner and outer) and stress due to hormonal and biological changes that teens go through. Some of these changes are often visible, like the change in body, voice etc. However, there are tremendous changes happening internally as well. Unlike during infancy, the teen brain upgrades the emotional regions than the cognitive ones; thus, making them emotionally supercharged. Also, during puberty testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone are released into the body, which have profound effects physically, emotionally, and sexually. All these changes can be quite scary for the teens.
Teenage angst is very normal yet is different in every teen; the intensity varies. It is important that the parents don’t get confused and annoyed while dealing with your troubled teen. You must remember that your support and understanding is very crucial for your child to endure this intense time in their life. Your teen will always need it even though they might not seek it.
Even though teenage angst is normal, it is advised to keep an eye out for extreme behavioural patters like, constant complaints of fear and anxiety, persistent trouble in sleeping, addiction to media, excessive alcohol or substance abuse, aggressive outbursts, and total lack of interest in socializing. If your child displays any of these extreme behaviours, it warrants an intervention. You know your child the best and staying connected with your child is the best approach to tide them over.
Dealing with Teenage angst
The ultimate parenting challenge is dealing with teenage angst with lots of patience and love. The parents must understand that the child isn’t deliberately trying to annoy you.
It is important for the parents to understand that your children are trying to figure out who they are separate from their parents and this tricky situation can bring out the difficult behaviour in them.
Do not ignore teenage angst
It is imperative to stay connected with your child despite their atrocious behaviour. Do not ignore their condition thinking that “they will figure it out”. This is the time they desperately need your attention even though they might act otherwise.
Accept their condition
You might notice that your teen knows the ways of pushing all your buttons and at times this might cause some of your old memories or weaknesses to resurface. As a result, you might tend to be less accepting or understanding of their condition. This rejection could be devastating for your teen. Sometimes you might find yourselves making a joke about their behaviour or dismissing them as being overly dramatic. This rejection tends to have a negative impact on them.
Do not take your teen’s behaviour personally and retaliate in pain or anger. If you find them making wrong choices, try and reason with them even though it might seem futile and they might totally ignore you. You are the best judge of your child. If you feel that it is important to teach them that choices have consequences, stand back, and do not intervene, but keep an eye. This might help them learn some valuable lessons.
Spend some time with your teen
They might hate this, and you might not have much to talk about. Still, it is a great and effective way of making them feel that you are always there for them. Make a schedule for the required family time and make sure that both the parties stick to it.
Try and set a sleep routine for your teen
This might be kind of difficult for most of them. Most of the teens tend to stay awake till late in the night and wake up late in the day. And with the angst in the picture, the sleep patterns are difficult to deal with and insomnia is a part of it. And if they don’t get proper sleep it would only add to their angst.
Limit their screen time. Make sure that their cell phones and other screens are turned off at bedtime. If your teen tends to take naps during the day, make sure to limit it to 15-20 minutes. Slow down their activities by evening. And whilst doing this, lead by example! A good sleep is a great recipe for improving one’s mood and productivity.
Make sure that your teen gets some exercise
This might be the last thing an irritated or frustrated teen might want to do. But exercise is the best way to help improve their anxiety, anger, and frustration. What better way to blow off some steam! And it would be great if you too could lace up and join them. Sets a good example and get those endorphins flowing.
Listen more, lecture less
Active listening is a powerful tool when dealing with teenage angst, where you listen with an open mind to what your teen has to say without interrupting and communicating back what you heard. You might find that your teen knows stuff that you don’t; show a willingness to learn from them. This gesture could make them feel important and appreciated. Even though you are older and might feel you are wiser, try and resist the urge to preach or sermonize. Communication must always be kept open. Certain sensitive issues should be introduced tactfully so that your teen feels confident confiding in you about their problems. The parents should always remember that your teen’s problem is the most important element in these communications.
Maintain your composure
There might be times when your teen can put your patience to test. If you find yourself being angry or irritated with your teen, try and keep your calm. Try dealing with your stress first instead of unfairly lashing out at your teen. And as a parent if you suffer from anxiety issues as well, reach out and seek help, either from friends or a professional.
Avoid spying and try confronting
Many parentsspy on their children by searching their rooms, skimming through their phones and laptops, going through their personal stuff, following them around to check whether they are drinking or doing drugs, and at times hire a PI. That’s a bit too much and in all probability, this might backfire and cause a permanent damage in the parent-child relationship. Keeping an eye on your child is important but their privacy should be respected. It is best to lovingly yet firmly confront your teen which is a far better approach than spying. Try knowing your child’s friends and the kind of activities they partake in.
Do not shy from disciplining your teen
Unconditional love and support are important while dealing with an angsty teenager, but it does not mean that discipline takes a back seat. It is important that discipline be consistent. The boundaries laid by parents might seem restricting, but they also give the child a great sense of security. Discipline plays an important role in making the child self-reliant and mature. While it is a good idea to ‘be a friend’ to your child, make sure that you don’t slip out of your parental role.
Determine whether it is teenage angst or depression
Teenage angst is a phase, but depression is a more serious condition. According to mental health professionals, about 50 per cent of lifetime mental illnesses begin at the age of 14 and they mostly go unidentified, and do not receive any treatment. The adolescent mental issues when left untreated become serious adult mental issues. It is often difficult to identify depression from the typical teenage adjustment.
In order to identify depression, mental health professionals look at three areas of concern:
- The intensity or severity of the condition:Parents should be mindful, and they should try and gauge the severity of their child’s condition. If they notice that their child’s symptoms are severely interfering with their day-to-day activities, social activities and their progress in school, they should immediately seek professional help.
- The duration: The parents need to observe the duration of such outbreaks; whether it happens now and then or if it is more consistent. And when these symptoms arise, how long to they exactly last. If it lasts for weeks, then it warrants medical intervention.
- The domain: Mostly teenagers tend to be angsty around their parents, teachers, and guardians but they are alright around their friends. But in case they are the same around their friends as well, then that is a sign of something more serious.
Depression, even though common, is a grave mental condition and unlikely to go away on its own. It might even get worse if left untreated. It is observed that depressed teens are a higher suicide risk even if the symptoms don’t appear to be severe. Depression is mostly treated by psychotherapy (also called as talk therapy), medicines or a combination of both.
It is important that the parents understand that depression is not a sign of weakness or some flaw and they offer full support so that their teen can recover from this serious condition and are able to lead a normal and happy life.