I talk to teens all the time and they worry about their parents “freaking out”, “losing it”, “getting paranoid” and even “going crazy.” As you all know by now when the teens use specific language I make no assumptions about what they mean. Instead, I ask them to provide me with definitions and examples. And, they do because above all else they want to be understood.
Here is what is going on-when they use any of the above four expressions they are referring to a parent who is becoming very emotionally reactive usually during a conflict with the teen. In an effort to change the way your teens perceive you and in an effort to make your life easier I have some suggestions about how to deal with conflict more effectively with your teen including:
1. When involved in a disagreement with your teen focus on listening as well as speaking. You don’t want to miss any potentially important information. You also want your teen to feel heard.
2. Even if you don’t feel calm fake it. Your teens will listen better and provide you with more honest information if you appear calm and don’t start crying, screaming, or hyperventilating. Think about it:Do you find it easy to talk to someone who is becoming emotionally out of control?
3. Have the conversation in a private area without an audience so no one feels that they they have to perform for an audience or be judged by an audience. I am referring mainly to siblings here. They should not be part of this delicate interaction between you and your teen.
4. Even if you know that you are not going to agree with your teen-hear them out. At least, they won’t feel totally dismissed.
5. Always think about what is more important winning the fight or the quality of your relationship with your teen. If the issue is minor and doesn’t involve safety you may want to give up the fight. Think it through.