When teens get upset — how best to respond


My mom sent this New York Times article to me last week, and I found it both comforting and incredibly helpful. Reading it, I had one of these ‘aha!’ moments of parenting clarity.

I realised that whenever Easton has come to me upset lately, I have this urge to immediately try to say something or get to the bottom of why he is upset. Instead, I should just allow him to be upset and allow his ‘glitter to settle’, to use the cute analogy provided in the article.

I realised that I am usually in a hurry, or simply distracted, and that I don’t often take the time to simply listen when my kids are upset. Admittedly, my first reaction is even sometimes an accusatory one.  For example, Easton got upset in the car after I picked him up from school last week and he explained that he got in trouble in math class for talking during a lesson. Instead of sitting next to him and just allowing him to be upset and listening to the entire story, I started immediately asking questions: ‘Well, why weren’t you paying attention in math class?’ and ‘You have to try harder to focus and not get distracted.’ And of course, this just made Easton more upset (tears even!). I now realise I needed to give him time to be upset; I should have just listened and made him feel heard while we were in the car. There is always time later to talk about being more focused in the classroom — he didn’t need a lesson drilled into him while he was upset.  It actually reminded me of the post Emilie wrote recently about letting teenagers vent. It is such valuable advice!

I love the way the author, Lisa Damour, a psychologist specialising in children and teens, depicts the teenage brain. And of course the analogy of the snow globe full of glitter!  It’s a wonderful read and I’m so glad my mom forwarded the article. I hope you find it just as interesting.

Courtney x

The Photo above was taken by my friend, Amelia Fullarton for Bellerose


Comments (4)

February 19, 2019

Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this. I think this could easily apply to helping my not yet teen boy through angst-ey moments too. Grabbing the snow globe!

Annie from Brimful
February 19, 2019

What a great article. I swear, all the best articles I read are from the NYTimes. 😉 And I totally concur! I’ve learned that when I give my children space to be angry, they not only calm down faster but it’s easier to talk about why they got upset in the first place. Two truths I read long ago that I’ve clung to when my children’s emotions get high. 1) Feelings are not right or wrong – they just are. It’s what we do with those emotions that matters. 2) A well-adjusted adult is someone who learned anger management as a child. ❤️ You’ll have to write a follow-up post in a few months to share whether your new parenting tactic works better when Easton gets upset.

February 25, 2019

This reminded me of ‘How to talk so kids Will listen and listen so kids will talk’ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish! A great book, but honestly I often forget about it too, really listening requires our mind to be present in the moment. Thanks for sharing!

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