Parenting through the transition from adolescence through puberty is an emotional rollercoaster. There are so many changes happening to a child in this phase of life. Physical changes are the most obvious and the ones parents often give the most attention. It’s rather difficult to ignore the odor of a teenaged boy’s room. Social changes are sometimes easy to spot as well, especially if you have firm social media guidelines. The emotional changes taking place are the most difficult to identify but are the most important in helping your teenager learn to effectively manage stressful situations.
Even though my oldest birth baby just now 12, I raised my bonus son and my niece through adolescence. The mistakes I made and the experiences I had with them have prepared me well to face this transition with Olivia.
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Just four days before the biggest dance competition Olivia sprained her ankle. Now, we don’t call her drama diva for nothing; she often lays it on thick. But this time she was really hurt and she was really emotional. In all her years of dancing, she had never been hurt before. She was scared, worried, frustrated, disappointed – all the normal emotional responses. But played out by an overachieving perfectionist, dramatic pre-teen, her stress level was 1000.
#ProudMommyMoment After a few rough days of injury recovery, near heartbeak and uncertainty my big girl pushed through and managed rehearsal and preparation for the #AmeriDance International #competition. I’m so proud of the way she maintained her composure and toughed it out. And now, #Disney fun! #themomonthemove
The competition was in Orlando, at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. And at that point it was paid in full, so we were going whether she was able to dance or not. I took her to the doctor to be sure there was nothing more than a sprain. She suggested an x-ray to rule out hairline fractures. That was scary for Olivia, but I was relieved. Having worked as an orthopaedic engineer for 8 years, I knew I could see for myself what was going on. Thankfully it wasn’t fractured.
While we traveled I was careful not to discuss her condition unless she was out of earshot. She had enough to worry about without adding the pressure of everyone else’s expectations. She didn’t do much activity other than walking until the team rehearsal three days later. I taped her ankle, gave her a healthy dose of ibuprofen, and looked her straight in the face and said, “Give it all you’ve got. If you can’t do it today, you won’t be able to do it tomorrow, so go for it.” In the end, she was able to pull through and dance with her team. And they won their first international competition!
I was most encouraged that my intentional approach helped her manage her emotional response to that predicament. With small changes to your approach you can help you teenager manage stressful situations without the emotional turmoil and drama you may be experiencing now.
Help Manage Stressful Situations – Offer suggestions, not mandates.
The quickest way to shut your teen down emotional is to force his/her hand. Especially if they are already emotionally triggered. The body and brain are slower to respond when the fight-or-flight syndrome begins. There is a delicate balance between solving the problem for them and letting them know you’re there to help them through it. Offer suggestions of choices you find acceptable but be prepared to make a decision for them. Through the struggle for independence, teens can be unwilling to show vulnerability and ask for help, even when they know they need it.
Help Manage Stressful Situations – Respond quickly, but don’t freak out.
Harold is a certified USATF track coach. He iced her ankle immediately to reverse the effects of the trauma and speed the process of recovery. He only told me about it once she was eating dinner and focused on something else. When your teenager is facing stress, don’t allow it to fester without acknowledgment. You likely won’t be able to stop it, but let them know in a calm and unintrusive manner that you are aware, that you understand and that you are there to help them through it. In science and in human behavior energy is transferable. So remember if you freak out, they will too.
Energy is neither created or destroyed. It is passed from one object or person to another. Click To Tweet
Help Manage Stressful Situations – Be her advocate and supporter.
If you can avoid being the bearer of bad news, do so. Harold and I both knew that if the sprain was too bad, she wouldn’t recover in three days. I didn’t want to be the one to tell her that. I needed to be the shoulder she could cry on. So I let someone else be the heavy this time. Place yourself in the position of a comforter and leave the bad news to someone else.
The most difficult aspect of Olivia’s injury for me to manage was watching her have to teach another dancer how to replace her. I had to fight the urge to pull her coach aside for a heart to heart. Instead, I planted the seeds for her to stand up for herself, but maintain the proper team/coach/dancer dynamic. Your teen does not want you to “get in the middle of it.” In those cases, well placed and firmly stated messages are key. Share your observations and opinions matter of factly to ensure that your message is heard and ultimately delivered to the intended recipient.
Help Manage Stressful Situations – Speak his language.
The most important aspect of all is to reassure your teen that he is loved, safe and supported. Learn his Love Language and learn how to speak it. When he knows there is a safe space, he’ll retreat to it in times of stress.
If your teenager is having debilitating and prolonged periods of stress, seek professional help. But for those situations you can handle, these four tactics are a great place to start.