Why Is My Kid SOOOO Angry?!

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Raising a teen can be a struggle even for the most experienced parent.  Exhaustion and frustration begin to set in when your child back talks and baulks on a more frequent basis. You may even feel like you don’t know the child that is living in your house because of their sudden change in behaviors and moods. There are personal reasons a child may be acting out (i.e. negative peer relationships, family divorce, etc.). However, here are some common and general reasons your child may be angry as well as some suggestions on how to handle it.

Not Feeling Heard/Understood

Anger is a secondary emotion. if you think back on times you’ve been angry and dig deep you may recall instances you’ve shown anger but there was an emotion that came before that anger. Maybe fear, sadness, or disappointment. The same is true for children and teens. They may push you away, slam the door, yell, or back-talk, but they are still trying to communicate a message or concern in the way that feels comfortable to them.

Parent Tip: As hard as it may be, take a step back and examine as an outsider to the family would. What seems to be the triggers to the angry behaviors? When did it start? What does your child need to feel heard? What could be a new approach to connecting with your teen? What has worked in the past? Once you have a better grasp on the situation, you can try communicating understanding to your teens current stresses and needs. Teens need to feel heard more than we often realize.

Biology

Sometimes it truly is just the nature of things. During the pre-adolescence and adolescence phases, their bodies are working in overdrive. Puberty usually starts between the ages of 7 and 13 for girls and between 9 and 15 for boys (KidsHealth.org). The teen brain is still “under construction” so to speak, as the impulse-control and emotion-regulation areas of the brain are not fully developed until early adulthood. Teens will be able to tell you what they should do, but when it comes to making a judgment decision in the moment, they often go for the thrills and adventure.  And don’t forget the hormones! Many hormones are pouring into the adolescent body and trying to regulate themselves, influencing brain development. Brain development influences behavior. See the connection? My point being that trying to reason with a teen can feel like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos (haha). It can very well feel like an impossible task!

Parent Tip: When communication approaches have been forgone or deemed impossible, find a healthy way of coping to avoid power struggles. Walk away. Take deep breaths. Talk to a friend. Power struggles involve both parent and child becoming increasingly angry with one another, often making the situation more negative and further away from a resolution. Modeling calm behavior is the best way to teach it to your child.

Stress

Again, this will take some examining and communicating with your child to determine the triggers to their stress. For many middle school students, the transition from elementary school where kids are often hand-held to complete tasks and accountability is shared to middle school, where kids are in more responsible roles of staying organized, using lockers, moving from class to class can all be quite scary. There are also standardized tests, new peer groups, and harder classes to partake in. Kids get stressed just like adults, but it often looks very different. It is more likely to hear “I’m mad” than “I’m stressed” from a teen.

Parent Tip: Have a heart to heart with you child. You may find that both you and your child are stressed about similar circumstances (i.e. financial concerns within the family, a family move, etc.). Empathize when concerned: (i.e. “I can imagine you’re stressed about the CRCT coming up, it’s a big test and it’s normal to feel this way. Let’s work together to find some ways to help you calm yourself and also feel prepared”). I truly believe that respectful communication is the most vital tool to a healthy relationship.

Test out these tips and let me know your thoughts!

Some great resources regarding talking with your teen and the biology of teen development:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog-extra/the-adolescent-brain-beyond-raging-hormones

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/02/11/171466505/how-parents-can-learn-to-tame-a-testy-teenager

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Self-Awareness + Self-Acceptance = Self-Esteem

Have you ever gone through a fun house at a carnival and passed by the distorted mirrors? You stand in front of one and the reflection is a teeny tiny upper body and huge lower half. The next one makes you have bug eyes but super small lips. You likely laugh and enjoy the silliness because you know that is not how you really look. That is not your true reflection.

 

Girls with a lack of confidence are looking in a distorted ‘mirror’, so to speak. One that shows only their flaws, faults, and failures. Perhaps they are actually looking in a mirror and picking apart their body features. Maybe it is their own negative thinking towards themselves that leads to feelings of worthlessness and doubt. There are many factors that  may contribute to low self-esteem: negative self-talk, media messages, perceived lack of connection, and bullying are a few known ones.

 

For the purpose of this post I want to offer some ideas to foster positive self-esteem for your daughter or a girl you know. 

Self-Esteem Boosters for Adolescent Girls:

(extracted from No Body’s Perfect by Kimberly Kirberger, 2003).

 

1) Get to Know Yourself: What is important to you? What makes you happy? What do you and don’t you like? Sure, you may have some flaws. Everyone Does. What positive qualities do you have that outweigh any flaws?

 

2) Stay True to Yourself: Now that you’ve thought about your positive qualities and have done some self-reflection, can you think of ways that you’ve let others influence you in a bad way? How can you tell what is real from fake? Staying true to yourself involves knowing who you are and staying away from the crowd, especially if the crowd is making bad decisions.

 

3) Be Responsible for Your Happiness: There is something I tell many of my students:You can’t change how people act, but you have complete control over your decisions. You can only change yourself. This involves being honest with yourself whether your decisions are leading to happiness or negativity.

 

4) Don’t Worry About What Others Think: It’s very difficult to let go of worrying, especially if you think someone thinks bad or has said something bad about you. But remember, you can only control yourself. It’s impossible to know what someone is thinking of you, so you might as well be the one to think the best about yourself!

 

5) Let Others Love You!:  Have you noticed yourself pushing love away? For example, a friend may give you a compliment and you don’t pay attention. When someone offers you their time by listening, checking in with you, spending time with you, and showing you RESPECT (very important, girls) – they are trying to show you love. Let them love you!

 

 

Parenting Teens (& Staying Sane!): A Developmental Framework

An excellent article that breaks down the developmental and biological reasons why teens behave in the ways they do. I encourage all parents to read!

Sidebar: A huge thank you to all parents reading this, you have no idea how much of a vital role you play in your child’s life. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. 🙂

Parenting Teens (& Staying Sane!): A Developmental Framework

Beating Boredom Blues

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All parents know that it doesn’t take a lot of Summer break time before your kids begin complaining of nothing to do! A lot of pre-teens talk about feeling “stuck at home” while parents are working or friends are not available. To avoid the boredom blues, encourage your child to be proactive. Your student can have fun and continue learning responsibility at the same time. Here are some tips for your teen:

1)Talk it Out- Discuss with your child what their interests are for Summer. Teens desire to feel heard and understood more than we realize. When an adult approaches them and explores their wants, teens are more likely to come to a compromise or resolution. Parents may not be comfortable with their child’s requests or not have the means to provide their requests. In such a situation, understanding from the parent can go a long way.

 Example: Cindy asks her mother to go to the beach with a friend, however her mother is uncomfortable with her leaving for an extended period and/or with this friend. Her mother approaches Cindy and says: “I can imagine how this trip would be really fun for you. I understand your reasoning for wanting to go and would love to discuss other ideas for Summer you may have. However, I have reasons for wanting to make sure you stay safe and my answer for this particular trip is no”. This is an empathic response and is more likely to lead to a more respectful response from your child rather than a flat out “No”.

2) Take Up a Hobby – The wonderful thing about taking up a new hobby (joining a club, volunteering, arts and crafts projects, etc.) is that you learn so much about yourself! Middle school students spend the majority of their time trying to figure out who they are and what they like (which is very healthy and normal!). Encouraging a new hobby can be inexpensive and aid in their development and individualization.

3) Earn Money and/or Rewards- Money can be tight for many families. However, that does not mean that responsibility and independence cannot be fostered. A couple of ideas for motivating your teen to complete tasks include chore/reward charts and “If… then…” requests (Example: “If you keep your room clean during the week, then we will rent you a new video game this weekend). What can they do for others? Such as cutting grass for neighbors or helping a family member.

 4) Family Time- Summer break can be the perfect time to reconnect with your child. Again, kids are often motivated by a positive reward that they know is coming. Although they may seem more focused on their friends right now, don’t count yourself out! Create a family game night, hold family meetings to discuss fun plans, cook together, go hiking – the options are endless! Kids will rarely remember what gifts they’ve been given, but are more likely to remember how someone made them feel.

**Extra Tip**: Encourage your child to solve problems themselves. Ask them: “What can you do to help yourself with this?”

Brittany Montgomery, LMSW