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cookieman's avatar

Current or Former Parents of Teenagers — What is/was your most effective coping mechanisms?

Asked by cookieman (35584points) February 19th, 2018 from iPhone

Teenagers can be a challenge. Between hormones, self doubt, looming adulthood, responsibilities, sexuality, and more, they can be an unexpected tsunami of emotions one minute, a mature young person the next, and a needy little kid a moment later. It can be whiplash inducing for parents and really fucking try your patience.

My daughter is, at her core, an amazingly intelligent, self-sufficient, mature, young lady. On a dime though, she can be an emotional time bomb, then clingy toddler, then back again. It can be tough to navigate and keep my own emotions in check.

I was listening to an interview with Ron Howard who said his most prolific and successful period of filmmaking was when his kids were teens. He said it got so bad at home, he just left, for months on end, to make movies.

My wife’s therapist tells her that when my daughter is unreasonable, just walk away. Go for a drive. Leave for the afternoon.

Is this a good tactic? What do/did you do to survive?

When I keep my cool, I try to give her a hug (which often backfired on me) or just clean the crap out of the house (as a distraction). That is, if I’m not yelling at her (which is mostly useless).

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12 Answers

rojo's avatar

We, my wife and I, found it best to disconnect when things got too emotionally charged. We would tag team with each other. When one got to worked up, we would self-impose a time out and the other would take over being the responsible one until tempers cooled down. When they were younger it was the kids we put in time out, exiled to their room for a while. As they got older we found it easier to take ourselves out of the picture. Most often it was something as simple as retreating to the bedroom and locking the door for a while. Other times it was get out of the house. You can use this time to do something worthwhile like grocery shop or change the oil. What you do does not matter as much as allowing yourself time to calm your mind.

Another thing is to pick your battles. The teen years are a time when they are trying to exert their independence from parents/authority and most are not ready (they also know they are not but are not likely to admit it during periods of confrontation). Knowing, or rather deciding, what is important and what is just not worth the effort of fighting about is something that helps keep the conflict to a minimum. It is also where two heads are better than one. When you are in the midst of dealing with an emotional teen meltdown it is sometimes hard to be realistic and you find yourself giving an over importance to minor things. This is when the other parent, the one who has not been arguing for the last hour, lays a hand on your leg and suggests that, perhaps, this is something that can be fought over another day. Having someone at your side who is still being rational is such a blessing.

rojo's avatar

Oh, yeah, another trick we learned was to assign a task, give a deadline, but not expect or demand it be done right then. “Clean your room up right now” is an invitation to a fight. “I need you clean up your room before you go out tonight” gives them the independence to decide when they will do it but still sets priorities. “Can you lay out your soccer clothes before you leave for school?” will be a lot less stressful than the mad, frantic search for cleats and shin guards when trying to get them out of the door for practice.

And a little warning ahead of a deadline like “We need to leave here in thirty minutes” followed by “It is fifteen minutes before we need to be in the car” will cause a lot less grief and sulking than pushing them out the door and into the car half dressed because they have been on their phone up until you decided it was time to leave.

longgone's avatar

I’m not a parent, but I was a very involved older sister for a long time. I found it helpful to remove myself from the situations you’re describing, but that alone was not usually enough. I learned to keep some books by A. S. Neill and Alfie Kohn lying around. Reading just a few pages of those got me back on track and thinking clearly.

Another thing I have recently learned about is the ABCD-technique of talking to yourself about adversities. It’s described in the books “Learned Optimism” and “The Optimistic Child” by Martin Seligman. After a little bit of practice, that technique can really help calm things down long-term.

When your teen doesn’t want a hug, try writing her a letter. Sometimes kids need written proof that they’re valued and loved. I remember reading about a version of this on a Fluther thread a few years back: The dad describing this was using a shared journal to stay in touch with grouchy kids. That seemed like a great idea to me.

cookieman's avatar

Great advice @rojo. I love the idea that as children they get the timeout but as teens, the parents take one.

I will say I felt guilty about the idea of “getting away” at first. I still do a bit. Like I should be in there trying hard at all times. But I see how that doesn’t help most times.

Choosing your battles can be hard, but you are so right that having a partner is key. I can’t imagine doing this alone.

cookieman's avatar

Thanks @longgone. I’ll check those out.

snowberry's avatar

I was giving a ride home to one of my kids when she started mouthing off. I pulled the car over to the side of the road and told her she could get out and walk home or clean up her mouth. She refused (I wasn’t surprised). So I drove to my daughter’s home, and dropped off there.

She got the point.

Zaku's avatar

Hmm. Well, I did my own personal work and learned about psychology and various techniques for communication, understanding and managing upsets, somatic awareness etc, as did my partner, and we gave the kids listening, understanding, acceptance, boundaries, limits, consistent rules with explanations/reasons, support and space, and tried to let them make choices about the things that we could, which helped them feel like they had some agency and were being treated like people who were listened to and cared about.

Most of the drama and craziness was really about the adults, especially their biological father and his awful girlfriend and their awful shaming/controlling behavior towards the kids. As the unofficial not-quite-stepdad, I didn’t end up in much conflict with the kids.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Maybe I had great kids, but I never had the sorts of battles that you all are describing. Now they are in their 30s and are pretty well normal.

My strategy: be authoritative but not heavy handed. Talk to them – really talk, not demand – regularly, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Set reasonable expectations and keep to them.

The main one, however, was talking to them as adults.

But like I said, maybe I was lucky.

snowberry's avatar

Early into high school, all 3 of my youngest got jobs. That seemed to mature them right up, and they became like little adults. They managed their school work, social life and work schedules well. My only job was to get them where they needed to go because only one of them had a car.

There were two more factors that helped shape my youngest kids.

Hubby finally woke up and began supporting my efforts, and apologized to the kids for not teaching them to respect me.

I did a lot of deep personal work myself, so I no longer reacted to their drama, and enforced good boundaries with everyone.

Aethelwine's avatar

They’ll tune you out if you try to overly explain things or try to be too affectionate when they are moody. Say what you need to say as short and precisely as you can and then gtfo. Occupy yourself with something to take your mind off the drama. They’ll come to you when they need you and it will be easier to deal with after you’ve had time to decompress.

cookieman's avatar

@snowberry: My daughter just started working at an elderly facility. Hopefully that’ll help.

snowberry's avatar

@cookieman If anything makes a difference, working in an old folks home should get through to her!

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