Understanding the Challenge of Teen Emotions & Supporting Your Teen

The challenge of dealing with teen emotions is not easy for any parent. Teenagers are transitioning from childhood into adulthood, where they are developing their independence and having their own opinions. It is also a period when mounting pressures around school grades, SAT scores, sports team performance, and college applications can cause teenagers to feel very overwhelmed. Further, teenagers are experiencing physical and hormonal changes that may cause emotional swings. With this transitional period, it brings a new set of challenges for teenagers and parents alike on navigating the sometimes rollercoaster rides of teenage emotions.

Given the mounting pressures during these formative years, it is important for parents to be supportive of the emotional needs of teenagers. Further, parents should ensure that they teach their teenagers resilience and healthy ways to cope with their emotions. These lessons will serve them well far beyond their teenage years

Here, Teen Rehab wants to provide you with a basic guide on understanding the challenge of teen emotions and tips on supporting teens’ emotional needs.

Why Are Teen Emotions So Volatile?

To understand why teens may experience emotional volatility, parents need to understand that teens’ physical bodies are evolving and experiencing changes in hormones that heighten emotional responses during stressful periods. Further, teenagers may be experiencing challenging situations in regard to peer relationships, family dynamics, and academic demands. Such challenges teenagers face includes:

  1. The Challenge of Identity Formation
    Teenagers struggle with a sense of self-awareness and the development of an independent identity. This may include the way they dress, coloring their hair, or how they do their makeup. Identity formation may also include forming political opinions around topics such as immigration, climate change, and gun violence. According to a 2018 survey by the American Psychological Association, teenagers report that these issues have been a significant stressor and cause for poor mental health.
  2. The Question of Self-Esteem
    Self-esteem becomes a paramount issue for teenagers. For the first time, they perceive a sense of being a separate entity with their own talents, personality characteristics, and life experiences. Such perception may lead to a sense of insecurity, fear, and emotional worry.
  3. An Awareness of Childhood Trauma
    As a teenager, the reality of childhood trauma often comes to the forefront of adolescent awareness. What was once repressed rises to the surface, which may lead to difficult questions and feelings of resentment and anger.

Teaching Resilience and Finding Healthy Outlets for Stress

Given these emotional pressures, teenagers may have feelings that come on like tropical storms. Suddenly, what may seem like a sunny day on the beach could become a torrential downpour of teen emotions.

Teenagers need the help and support of their parents and other adult role models. Some parents may follow a practice of tough love, expecting teenagers to simply carry on, sweeping their emotions under the rug to focus on success, whether in the classroom or on the field. However, this may not be the best route of parenting your teenager. Rather, parents should be empathetic to teen emotions and teach strategies for how to handle emotions. Teaching resilience and helping your teen find healthy outlets for stress are important elements to coping with emotions.

Therefore, by developing emotional tools in a safe environment, teenagers can more successfully handle the volatility of their emotions.

Strategies to Help Manage Teen Emotions

Here are six strategies that parents can adopt to help teenagers traverse their emotional challenges:

  1. Value the unique identity of an adolescent
    By accepting their individuality, you help an adolescent navigate identity formation.
  2. Avoid Anger and Raised Voices
    Meeting volatility with volatility is a recipe for disaster. Instead, remain calm. Taking a moment to pause and breathe can help diffuse conflicts.
  3. Use Humor to Reduce Emotional Intensity
    If you and your teen can laugh at the emotional intensity of a tough situation, you are one step closer to finding a resolution. Laughter puts almost everything into perspective.
  4. Foster Emotional Vocabulary and Expression
    First, ask a teen to describe their feelings about what is happening. In this process, encourage the freedom to be uncertain and vague. Teens can’t always put their finger on exactly what they’re feeling or why. Express your feelings to foster their expression.
  5. Promote Stress Management Skills
    In 12-Step programs, they use the acronym H.A.L.T. which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. By helping a teen avoid these four stressful states, you help them develop self-regulation and stress management skills. Learn to reduce stressors.
  6. Listen First Without Judging or Criticizing
    If a teenager believes their parents are listening to them, they will be much more willing to open up and accept help.

Indeed, by being emotionally supportive and teaching healthy coping strategies, parents can meet the emotional needs of teenagers. However, if after adopting some of these practices, your son or daughter is still consistently emotional volatile, it may be time to consider professional therapy for teenagers. Ultimately, the goal is long-term health and happiness for every teenager on the journey to adulthood.


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels