14 Oct Recognising and Managing Feelings as Teenagers
Growing up is hard. There are so many lessons to learn throughout the different stages of growing up and with added pressures of comparison, exams and media it is only getting harder. One lesson – learning how to recognise and manage feelings is a very important part of children’s social and emotional development. Even today, there are many adults who are unable to express their feelings as they have never been taught how during their childhood.
Parents play an important part here. Children need to be taught words to express their feelings from a young age. Also, they learn from you, so you must act as an excellent role-model. If a child hears you shouting and sees you throwing things when you are upset, they are more likely to mimic this behaviour.
Although we don’t usually have a choice about what we feel, we do have a choice about how we choose to respond. Feelings affect behaviour.
It is so important for your child to know that they can talk to you or another family member or a person they can trust, at any time. Knowing this will empower them to communicate whether they need extra support with their school work, are trying to understand how their body is changing, what they are thinking and feeling about certain situations.
- “I can talk about my feelings instead of keeping them inside me”
- “Talking with others helps me to take control of my emotions”
- “Talking does get easier”
- “I can tell the other person when I feel upset by something they have said or done”
- “Asking for help is the first step to solving problems”
- “Opening up will make me feel better”
- “It’s okay to cry”
- “It’s okay to laugh, even during the tough times”
The teenage years can be a difficult period for both the teenage child and the parent(s). Teens have to go on a journey of self-discovery whilst enduring physical, emotional and life changes. It is during these times when some teens do not know how to recognise and control their emotions – their brain is racing at 100mph – everything is going on at the same time! They are perhaps experiencing a whole range of emotions now which they did not previously have.
Of course, I am not saying that all teenagers act in this way, but some teenagers do forget the basic fundamentals about how important it is to express and control their emotions in an appropriate manner. They put up barriers as defence mechanisms – they blame others if something goes wrong, they make criticisms, use anger to intimidate others or shut themselves away completely. They find it difficult to reach out when they need emotional support.
Parents need to remember that they too were once a young child and then a teenager and although behaviours may differ, acknowledgement of the process of growing up should be given, even if you do not recognise what ‘was’ your son/daughter.
Although your teenagers may not want to talk, it can be helpful for them to write down their feelings down in a journal or through art or music. Doing physical activities can also be of benefit, although if they are angry and decide to take up something like boxing, control and discipline is paramount.
Try to talk to them by asking open ended questions but don’t keep ‘nagging’ them. They will open up to you in their own time. Sit down and have an open, relaxed body posture, listen to what they have to say, use non-judgemental language and words of encouragement. Be aware of any changes in behaviours such as them not wanting to go to school, to a class/sports activity they usually attend, a change in their eating/sleeping patterns.
It is usually easier to re-assure a younger child and cuddles and hugs go a long way in doing this. Most teenagers are less likely to want this. However, you may be able to give a gentle touch to their arm, shoulder or back. A positive touch reduces stress hormones and releases feel good hormones. Hopefully, you will then both feel so much better.