“Oh, please. It’s not a big deal. It’s nothing to get so upset about.”
I have to stop myself from uttering those words lately. Like, all the time. Because with three teenagers in my house, someone is constantly anxious, stressed and close to tears.
Sometimes it’s about a quiz or project. Sometimes it’s about a comment one of their friends made. Sometimes it’s about a fear that seems so completely irrational I can’t even wrap my head around. Sometimes it’s a fear that I have, too.
It’s tough to remember that for our tweens and teens, everything IS a big deal. Every test seems like it can make or break their future. Every try out seems like it is paramount to their success in life. Every negative word hurts them to the core.
Because teenagers have zero perspective, no real life experience. They have no idea that things often work out the way it is supposed to happen, that with time things settle down.
Every moment of their existence just feels, well, big.
And when I’m in the throes of middle-agedness, torn between aging parents and trying to get my three kids where they need to be, keeping my head afloat with my job and wanting to chase my own dreams too, it’s tough not to minimize their feelings. It’s tough not to say, “Stop being so dramatic!”
But here’s the thing. We all know adults who still act this way, who still think every bump in the road is life altering. We all know people whose coping skills are non-existent.
So, the point for us as parents isn’t to dismiss these feelings. It’s on us to teach our kids how to manage them.
The other day one of my daughters was freaking out about a test. She often does this the night before despite the fact that she always does well. When I’m feeling stressed, I often lose my temper and yell, “Freaking out will get you nowhere and only delay your studying! Calm down!”
Because that is modeling the way you should handle these types of situations, right? Go Mom.
Knowing she had a big test coming up, I psyched myself up and prepared myself for her wrath. As she sat at the kitchen counter in front of the computer, I could see her physically getting anxious. She snapped at her sister for bumping into her. She yelled at her beloved dog for barking. She finally scream-cried, “She didn’t teach this. I don’t get it. I’m going to fail!”
This is normally where I lose my mind and freak out myself while trying to do all the things I need to do at the end of the evening. Instead I said, “Do you want a cookie?”
She rolled her eyes as I brought her over a few Thin Mints we had left over in the pantry. Then I offered to help her study. She wasn’t really nice about it. She was huffy and pissy. But I kept saying things like, “This is hard,” and “You seem to know this part.” I did not engage with any of her poor behavior.
And she calmed down in a few minutes, and then she got back at it. It was a win.
Sometimes I look at my daughters, the she-women who can now stand eye-to-eye with me, and I’m awestruck by how capable they are, sometimes so much that I forget they haven’t yet learned all they need to survive in this world. I forget that developing perspective and understanding what you can survive is a life-long process. I forget that my job isn’t finished.
While the anxiety our teens are feeling is sometimes overblown, it is real, and our kids are feeding off each other. The more we teach them how to process and manage it, the better they can help each other, too.
When my daughter came home and told me she received a 48 out of 50 on her test, I didn’t say, “I told you if you stopped freaking out you could do it!” Although I really, really wanted to proclaim exactly that.
Instead, I simply said, “Great job! You want a cookie?”
You may also like:
Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here!