“Mom, I have nothing to wear! Nothing!!! (Insert very loud and almost desperate voice…)”. Every parent of a teen has heard this at some point and as you enter her room, you find clothes on the floor, clothes in her closet and clothes bursting out of her drawers!
Your first instinct is to state the obvious. “What are you talking about? You have a ton of clothes”. But you have a feeling this may just fuel the fire and lead to responses like, “nothing fits, it’s dirty, not warm enough…”the complaints will go on and on.
So do you engage? Yup, that’s the question. Do you try and rationalize with a teen that is being ruled by her emotional brain? This is not going to comfort her.
As a parent, I just want to fix the problem. Well, I’ve learned she may not be looking for a solution. So then why is she asking? How are we supposed to know that?
How do you know the difference between her asking for help and complaining? Well that’s like walking a tight rope – walk slowly and carefully. Sometimes your teen simply wants to vent. Sometimes they want to talk about it without you jumping in with a solution. So how do you respond?
Well, teens just want to feel heard. So I might try and say, “That sounds like a tough situation, not finding any clothes to wear”. She may or may not confirm this. “Let me know if there’s anything I can help with?” and then walk away. You don’t need to engage in every battle with your teen.
What you can do is stay connected and build a strong positive relationship. Do this when your teen has calmed and their emotions have settled . Instead of engaging in battles with your teen – think to yourself:
- Has your teen been getting enough sleep?
- Have they been eating healthy food and getting exercise?
- Is your teen stressed with school, work or extracurricular activities?
- Are there any social issues that are causing them stress?
- Is there a lot of family stress?
Think about the reasoning behind the outbursts. We know it’s not really about the clothes. Emotionally healthy children can cope better with stress levels, so teach your teen optimistic thinking to help them develop a positive outlook while building their confidence and self-esteem.
You can help your teen cope with strong emotions when they are not in the middle of an outburst. Wait until they’ve calmed down. Don’t engage if it’s not necessary. Also, be sure to talk about coping strategies and the importance of sleep, healthy eating and physical activity.
How have you dealt with your teen’s outbursts? We would love to hear from you.
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.