The teenage years can be a challenging time, for both children and their families. While parenting is a difficult task at the best of times, when it comes to the onset of hormones, coupled with potential relationship dramas with friends or love interests, as well as exposure to drugs, alcohol, and potentially negative influences, a parent’s job typically gets much harder.
If you feel like you barely know your young daughter anymore, and can see signs that she’s going off the rails, now is the time to do what you can to help — while preserving your own sanity too of course! If you’re keen to get some pointers on dealing with a challenging teen, read on.
Remain Calm, Listen, and Be Patient
One of the best things you can do when handling your difficult daughter (especially at highly emotional times) is to remain calm. Although it can certainly be tough to keep it together when you feel like losing your cool and yelling at her behavior, staying calm is more likely to lead to a positive outcome.
After all, if your child is saying hurtful things, screaming at you, or otherwise acting out, adding to the drama with your own negative reaction can only lead to a more strained relationship, plus potentially worsened behavior. It is much better to speak in a level, calm tone and lead by example instead.
Listening is another important tool to use when dealing with a challenging teenager. Keep in mind that children really just want to feel like they’re being heard, and that they are accepted. If you learn to bite your tongue, and can listen without lecturing, dismissing your daughter, or rebutting what she says, she will be more likely to recognize that you are treating her seriously and are open to her words. As well, you are certainly going to pick up on a lot more important information about your teen’s mental and emotional state if you sincerely listen.
It pays to regularly ask your teenager how things are going for her, and to try and keep the lines of communication open between you. During talks, don’t forget to acknowledge your daughter’s words (although this doesn’t mean you have to agree with them!), and validate her feelings, fears and concerns. Let her know that you understand she is upset, and that you can see things are difficult for her.
Of course, these types of often challenging conversations, not to mention potential examples of bad behaviour, can often be extremely frustrating to try and handle as a parent. However, it’s important to be patient and learn not to immediately go off the handle. This perseverance will pay off over time, as it will help your daughter to open up to you and make her more likely to discuss issues with you than pull away.
Define the Problem and Look for Its Source
If you can see that your teenage girl is going off the rails or headed that way, it pays to try and define the problem at hand. After all, while adolescence is a difficult time for everyone and always involves quite a lot of flux, a behavioral switch or even a 180-degree personality change is not the norm.
If you can determine the source of your daughter’s behavior, and uncover what’s behind her anger or other examples of acting out, then you will have more luck helping her to deal with her issues and understanding the best way to react.
Try to determine if your child is sad, depressed, jealous, angry, anxious, feeling inadequate, or having other types of feelings. Apart from asking her questions and paying attention, you might also want to speak to her teachers, coaches, friends, and other regular contacts too, to see if they can shed any light on what the problem may be.
Lastly, remember that there is nothing wrong with seeking help if you need it. There are many avenues you can go down for assistance, and doing so does not mean that you’re giving up on your child, are a bad parent, or are failing your teen.
You might want to consider sending your daughter to a school that is specially designed to deal with teenagers having issues, such as an academy for difficult girls, or have her speak to a school counselor, other school staff, a general practitioner, a psychiatrist, or another mental health specialist. You can also speak with these types of people yourself, to get some advice on strategies for dealing with and assisting your child.
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