Being a parent of a teenager can be a rewarding but frustrating experience. Your teen may go from happy to withdrawn within a heartbeat. While most parents can pinpoint what causes their teen’s mood to shift, various factors can contribute to how your teen is feeling. Luckily there are ways you can help your teen with their emotions in a healthy way.
Why Are Teenagers So Emotional?
It’s essential to keep in mind that your child is experiencing many physical and mental changes during their teenage years. One of the biggest changes that occur when your child reaches adolescence is the growth of their limbic system. The limbic system consists of the hippocampus and amygdala. This region of the brain is responsible for emotions and is relatively unstable during the teenage years. In front of the limbic system is the frontal region, which is responsible for rational thinking and making decisions.
When your child shifts from a child to a teenager, the limbic system begins to develop and connect to areas of the brain that perform rational thinking, such as the frontal cortex. Often during the teen years, the limbic system tends to be more forceful when it comes to decisions, causing teens to make emotionally charged decisions rather than rational choices.
As the limbic system and frontal region begin to connect, your teen will start to make more rational decisions. However, this process will take until your teen reaches their early twenties, which is why many teenagers make impulsive decisions based on emotions rather than rational thinking.
Warning Signs Your Teenager Is Struggling With Their Emotions
While it is normal for your teenager to experience and express their emotions, this does not mean that some of these problems aren’t serious. It is a common mistake for many parents to dismiss their teen’s feelings or to focus on their performance at school or in other areas of their life that may experience a decline. Some warning signs that your teen may be struggling with their emotions include:
- Withdrawal: If your teenager begins to withdraw from their peers or isolate themselves, it may be a sign of mental health struggles.
- Unhealthy sleeping schedule: Teenagers need more sleep than adults to ensure healthy growth and brain development. If your teen isn’t getting enough sleep, this can signify a more serious issue.
- Lack of motivation: If your teen begins to show a lack of interest or motivation in activities they previously enjoyed, they may be struggling to understand and process negative emotions.
- Low self-esteem: Making a few self-deprecating jokes is unlikely to show a problem, but if your teen constantly expresses doubt or puts themselves down, it may indicate that they have low self-esteem.
- Decline in grades: If your child’s performance in school experiences a sudden decline, it may be a sign of emotional distress. As you help your child, your main concern should be to look into what is causing a drop in grades rather than the grades themselves.
- Change in weight: While your teen’s body may undergo many changes as they transition into puberty, if your child gains or loses weight rapidly, it may signify they are experiencing emotional distress.
Healthy Ways Teens Can Express Their Feelings
Fortunately, there are many ways you can help your teen understand and manage their emotions. Establishing an open line of communication between yourself and your teen as well as developing creative outlets will help your teen express their emotions. Some healthy ways teens can cope with emotional issues include:
- Art: Many teenagers find it easier to express their emotions through artistic expression. Using their creativity creates a state of flow that can help their brains relax and rest from any negative emotions they may be experiencing.
- Music: Music is an excellent way for your teen to identify and express their feelings whether they listen to music or make their own.
- Writing: If your teen has trouble expressing themselves verbally, journaling or creative writing may be a good emotional release for them.
- Physical activity: Exercising helps your teen get out of their head and focus on the present moment.
- Talking about emotions: Whether your teen chooses to speak with you or a trusted friend or relative, talking about their feelings with others who can empathize with their experiences can help them understand and come to terms with their emotions.
- Relaxing: Teaching your child how to develop relaxation techniques such as deep breathing will help them understand emotions in the moment and handle them more efficiently.
- Meditation: Meditation can help your teen quiet their mind to improve their mental health.
- Sleep hygiene: Making sure your teen gets the correct amount of sleep can significantly improve how they feel when they’re awake.
What You Can Do to Support Your Teen
As a parent, your main priority is to ensure your child is healthy. However, paying attention to how your teen feels is just as important as paying attention to their physical health. Some of the best ways to provide emotional help for your teenager include:
- Do not trivialize your teen’s feelings: Many parents shrug off their teen’s emotions instead of trying to relate to how your teen may be feeling. When you notice a change in your teen’s emotions, it’s essential to approach this change honestly and without judgment to encourage open communication.
- Respect their boundaries: If your teen chooses not to open up to you, it’s important not to press the issue and respect the boundaries your teen has put into place.
- Pay attention to changes in emotions: What might start as small behavioral patterns can lead to more concerning behaviors later in life. Noticing and addressing these changes and behaviors sooner rather than later will ensure your teen is healthy.
- Remain sensitive to their needs: As a parent, it’s best not to act defensive when your teen expresses their feelings. Help your teen make sense of their unique perspective and experience while remaining sensitive to their specific needs.
What to Know About CCA’s Counseling Program
At Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), our school counselors are here to provide the emotional support adolescents need. Our mental health professionals engage in one-on-one conversations with students to understand their needs, their feelings and how we can best support them. Parents can also meet with school counselors to receive answers to questions such as:
- When should my teen seek school counseling?
- How can I encourage my child to see a counselor?
- Is counseling private? How do I know my teen’s information is safe?
- Why do teens refuse help?
Experience Student Support at Commonwealth Charter Academy
Thanks to our virtual format, our school counselors also have more flexibility regarding scheduling appointments to talk to your teen. This flexibility allows us to help your teen at a time most convenient to them and in the private setting of their choosing. To learn more about our student support services at CCA, request more information today!