Few people have the ability to get under your skin in quite the same way as your teenager. It’s the attitude, eye-rolling, flagrant disregard for your rules, and questionable judgments. At times, it can make you want to scream your head off and tell her just how awful she is behaving.
As cathartic as it may seem in the moment, erupting Mount Vesuvius-style is not the most effective way to get through to your child. “You need to remember that the adolescent you are angry with is the same child you have always loved deeply,” says Dr. Ken Ginsburg, author of the book, Raising Kids to Thrive.
When anger overwhelms, it’s more important than ever to reinforce your connection with your teen. Managing anger in the moment is a key part of preventing you from saying or doing something that causes long-term hurt.
“When you’re angry, you’re often communicating ineffectively,” says psychologist Richard Weissbourd, author of The Parents We Mean To Be. “Now your teenager can focus on the fact that your reaction is unfair and overblown—not on the fact that they did anything wrong.” And in the heat of the moment, you might end up saying painful, destructive things that you will come to regret later.
Instead, try giving yourself a “time out.” Allow yourself the space and time to simmer down and sort through exactly what you are feeling and how you want to respond. “It’s important to take time to re-center and breathe,” says Dr. Ginsburg.
Try to give your teen the benefit of the doubt. “Our kids want to please us. That is just as true during their adolescent years as it was when they were 15 months old,” says Dr. Ginsburg. “When they understand that you care deeply, even when you’re angry, they’re going to do what it takes to maintain that connection with you.”
Of course, teens don’t always make this process easy. There have been times, for instance, that Susan Borison, editor-in-chief of Your Teen, has been so mad at one of her five kids that she didn’t want to look at them, let alone hug them. But a family tradition has come to the rescue. Every Friday evening, her family participates in the Jewish Sabbath tradition of parents blessing their children. “Even if I don’t feel like it, I suck it up. We go through the motions anyway,” Borison says. “Inevitably, the anger dissipates.”
Lean on your family’s own unique traditions in times of friction. Maybe it’s a hug goodnight, an evening bowl of ice cream together, rousing Mario Kart matchups, or painting each other’s nails each week. Maintain those ties that you feel like throwing out the window in the heat of a fight. Each tradition, practiced regularly, carries a history of family connection. You add a link to that love chain each time you swallow your anger and show up.