Supporting Your Early Teen
The past 18 months have been an unsettled time for us all. With the return back to school or college, you may notice your teen or ‘tween’ struggling with elements of social overwhelm. It can be hard to know how best to support them; managing those turbulent emotions can be a real challenge. How can we help them to feel happy, confident, and secure?
However much the boundaries you’ve set might seem to be the cause of conflict, and however much your teen pushes against them, hold strong on maintaining them! Your teen needs these boundaries in much the same way a toddler does to feel grounded and safe. Contradictory or changing expectations can be confusing. Decide on a few simple boundaries, and make them non-negotiable.
If you notice your teen is particularly anxious about something or an upcoming situation, help them list out everything they can influence about it and what is in their control or down to them? Then do the same for the opposite – highlight the aspects of the situation they can’t influence? This process helps them to see the number of things that they are wasting their energy thinking about. They should instead focus on the ones they can control.
A large part of social overwhelm is fuelled by worrying about worrying. Why do I feel like this? I’m not normal for worrying about these things or having these big emotions. Reassure your child that their emotions and worries are typical and not judged negatively. When it’s the right moment, using ‘Did I ever tell you about the time I….’ can work wonders to help drive connection and expose your vulnerability. Telling your teen about your own experience with friendship issues or big emotions can sometimes help to reassure them.
After the transition back to term time and the increase in pace and stamina, this requires, be mindful of the space your early teen may need. You might want them to socialise with the rest of the family, but some time in their own space might be what they need to decompress from their day.
Many teens confuse ‘fitting in’ for belonging. We’ve all been there ourselves, in our teenage years where we bend ourselves to fit the group. If you can see this taking its toll on your teen and they are that far away from their authentic self, help them begin to see the difference between fitting in and belonging, focusing on how good it feels to genuinely belong based on acceptance.
For further ideas on supporting your teens, take a look at Teen Tips which provides a number of webinars and workshops on how as a parent you can create a healthy & happy home.
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