Dear Your Teen:
My teenager comes home from school and vents for 15-20 minutes several times a week. What should I do?
School is a stressful place to be for a teen, not just academically but socially as well. It sounds like your daughter, along with so many other teens, is dealing with stress that builds throughout the day until she is able to come home and “vent”. Many parents struggle with the silent treatment or one-word responses after school; in this case we’ve got something to work with (even though it feels so negative). Here’s what you can do…
Three tips for dealing with venting teens
First, just listen! Remember, she may have been holding in her stress and emotions all day. So if she is really distraught at the end of the day, she is not ready to “fix” anything yet. Even though it is your instinct as a parent to want to solve these problems with her (or for her), wait until she has had adequate time to talk about what happened and how she is feeling. Letting your teenager vent is acceptable. The best thing to do here is to just listen to what she is saying and validate how she is feeling.
Second, as you are listening, take stock of the issues. Are they relatively normal teenage concerns (pop quiz in math class, disagreement with a friend)? Or are they serious issues (failing a class, bullying)? This will help you decipher how concerned you should be, and how to best approach problem solving.
Finally, when your daughter has run through her list of everything bad that happened that day, here is your opportunity to help her problem solve. Remember, it is much more valuable to teach your teen how to problem solve, rather than telling them what to do. You can do this by running through possible solutions with them, weighing the pros/cons of each, and selecting the solution that will likely have the best outcome. But you may also decide that what she is describing is relatively normal teenage concerns, and that she just needed to let off steam. That’s okay too!
Meredith Bonacci, Ph.D., is a psychologist with The School at Columbia University in New York City.