Remember when your child was a mere tot and the word “no” could reduce your little sunshine into a wailing demon? While that memory makes me cringe, I’d go back in time and experience it again.
Yep. You read that right.
Any crazed parent of a toddler knows tantrums come with the territory. I did. But then, the years went by and I starting to feel superior, like I had parenting thing under control. Like I was a combination of Carol Brady and Angelina Jolie.
And then, bam! Reality check. I have a teenager. And NOTHING could prepare me for a teenage meltdown.
My first encounter came out of nowhere and I quickly discovered that whatever a Mom does or says likely will only add to the meltdown. (Of course, I know that now, after I suffered the brutal result of trying to be rational.)
This is what you are likely to hear during a teen meltdown:
“You’re ruining my life.”
“Because of you I’m going to get left out.”
“Everyone will be there and I won’t and it’s all your fault.”
The meltdown will include: Crying. Screaming. Anger toward you. Possible door slamming.
Here’s what the experts at Families With Teens say NOT to do:
1. React. When you become angry, you add to the energy of your teen’s meltdown.
2. Back down. It may be tempting to make the meltdown go away by giving in a bit, but it will not help you or your child in the long run. In fact, it will make the next meltdown even bigger because he has learned that sometimes you back down.
3. Problem-solve. Your teen is reacting out of an emotional side of him, and is not ready to engage his intellect (which is needed for problem-solving).
4. Threaten. Most parents do this out of anger and it only exasperates the teen and adds energy to the meltdown.
5. Insult. Avoid the temptation to say, “You’re acting like a child. Grow up and act your age.”
6. Watch. For some teens, just having their parent in the room watching them will increase the meltdown. Your non-verbal reactions may be enough to fuel the fire.
7. Argue. It may be easy to show your teen the error in his logic, but remember, he is not thinking logically, he is thinking emotionally.
Here’s what they suggest you do:
1. Remain calm. Easier said than done. This takes practice.
2. Acknowledge the anger. Sometimes it is calming for a teen just to be understood.
3. Find something else to do. Do anything that will help you to not engage in your teen’s meltdown.
4. Make every effort to starve the fire. It’s not the time to enforce punishment. It’s not the time to discuss the consequences. Only do these things when your teen is showing you they can be calm.
My first encounter with a teen meltdown has left me numb. But next time, I plan to take the walk-away and wait-for-calmness-to-return approach.
Parents, or should I say survivors, how do you handle teen meltdowns?
(Wondering how Angelina would handle a teen meltdown???)