Help for the Tumultuous Teen Years

Most young people have to deal with painful problems. Your best friend is moving. Your parents are getting divorced. Your grandmother is dying. We all struggle with these events but young people have a tougher time adjusting and adapting.

There are a number of reasons for this. First, you may not always understand what is happening. Second, you don’t know why something is happening. Third, it is challenging to know if your feelings are appropriate. Last, there is often no one to talk to – especially when your whole family is struggling with the same experience. Fortunately, there are actions you can take to make these inevitable experiences less painful. Often you can lessen the duration of unpleasant events. Change can be difficult but taking action, even if it takes a few tries to get it right, will make you feel stronger.

Stay Calm
The first thing to remember when something unexpected, unfortunate or otherwise upsetting happens is to not immediately give in to your feelings. Try to stay calm. Acknowledge your feelings but focus your attention on the situation at hand. Take a deep breath or two or three. Paying attention to where you are, what is happening, and who might be close by that can help will keep you from ending up in a worse position. For instance, if you are at the mall and someone is harassing you, try not to give in to anger or fear, which often makes circumstances worse, especially if the bully is not alone. Staying calm will allow you to think of ways to extricate yourself from a bad situation.

Talk About It
Another action is to talk about your problems. Seek out an adult that you respect and trust. Explain the situation to them first. This will help you focus on something other than your feelings. It is easier to talk about emotions when we are not held tightly in the grip of those emotions.

If you have trouble expressing your feelings, think about a time before when you felt the same and describe that instead. Time and distance give you a perspective that you don’t have in the present. If you can’t name your feelings, describe the thoughts you have associated with the feelings such as “I don’t want to go back to school” or “I just want to be alone.”

If the adult does not want to talk about it or answer your questions, don’t give up. The subject may be just as upsetting for an adult. Wait a little while and try again. Begin your next attempt with something like “I don’t understand something” or, “can you help me with something?” It is a nearly universal human tendency to want to give help when someone asks for it. So, when you ask for help before telling people what you have to say, you are more likely to get the assistance you need. If these approaches do not work, find someone else to talk to.

Talking about problems can lead to good problem-solving skills. It is always helpful to hear another’s perspective. Sometimes looking at things in a new way can solve a problem or open the door to even more insights. When this is not enough, try these basic steps:

  1. identify the problem 
  2. decide on the desired solution 
  3. determine possible ways to reach the goal 
  4. put the plan into action 

Using the previous example, a positive outcome would be that the bully stops picking on you. In conversation with a parent or teacher, or someone who has been through the same thing, you could learn some tips to make a bully lose interest in you. This advice would include standing and walking tall. Looking directly into the bully’s eyes when speaking to them and not letting your voice go weak or quivery. Avoiding isolated places. Trying to avert a bad situation with humor. What other ways can you think of?

Once you’ve identified the steps to reach a goal, you’re ready to put your plan into action. Sometimes problems are not resolved on the first attempt. You can follow these problem-solving steps again and again to find additional ways to achieve your goal. Other people can be very helpful in this process.

Find an Outlet
A third step, finding an outlet, works independently and in support of the other actions. It is very helpful to have at least one way to release and focus our emotions. Getting involved in music, art, drama and sports are great ways to work off some of your emotions. Such activities are very soothing and healing. They engage us in creative activities that tap into our subconscious and unconscious mind which helps us work through our strong and often conflicting emotions. This, more than anything, will help keep you on even keel emotionally. It will help you to manage your feelings better and give you confidence. Raising your confidence will allow you to deal with problems more effectively and make you less interesting to the bullies of the world.

It’s not easy being a teen. There are lots of pressures on you, both internal and external. Give yourself a break. Try not to get so upset about things. Have some fun. Use your mind to analyze your struggles and talk about them with someone you trust. Channel your emotions into something positive through athletic and creative activities. These habits will help you no matter what situation you find yourself in. They will make your younger years and your adulthood a lot easier.

What ways of managing stress and difficult situations have you found successful? Please comment below.

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