Bitterness can influence an entire family's way of thinking and handling of life's daily obstacles. A bitter teen may be concealing anger, depression or resentment over something in her life. Recognizing a teenager's bitter behavior as soon as possible is the key to eliminating it and getting your teenager onto a more productive track.
Signs of Bitterness
The signs of bitterness or anger can vary according to the person experiencing it, according to KidsHealth. Some teenagers may become withdrawn, quiet and sad. Others may irritate easily, yell or slam doors. Teenagers may mock younger siblings or pick fights with other family members. Parents should be on the look-out for personality changes as a hallmark in bitterness. Teenagers may show more bitterness toward the original source of their frustration.
Causes of Bitterness in Teenagers
The causes of bitterness in teenagers are numerous; for some, it could be a recent break-up of a friendship or romance, a death, troubles in school, problems with teachers or even struggles at a part-time job, according to KidsHealth. Parents and siblings may also be to blame. A teenager may be upset about a previous fight. Sibling rivalry, along with a belief that another child is favored, may be enough to sour family relations. Bitterness may also surface because of other perceived conflicts or beliefs. A depressed teenager may believe that he is unloved by his family, for example, and may take that anger out on his parents.
Guiding Teens through Letting Go
Bitterness and resentment can become an addictive way to help people feel powerful during times of stress, according to Dr. Paula Bloom, a psychologist and PBS contributor. Act calm and receptive toward your teenager, which may help her feel safe communicating her troubles. A writing activity pinpointing the source of the bitterness could help. Along with your teenager, jot down who and what caused you to feel bitter, the benefits and disadvantages of feeling bitter, and the benefits to everyone in letting go of bitterness. Remind your child that forgiving someone does not justify the wrong committed, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Modeling Appropriate Conflict Resolution
Children often learn from their parents, and bitterness may be a way of responding to a lack of power in the household. If children are scolded or denied the right to show anger or speak out about problems, they may become bitter, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Encourage everyone to calmly voice disagreements, focusing on how a conflict made them feel and what can be done to improve the situation. Avoid bringing up past conflicts and keep the family's focus on a solution. This may prevent bitterness from surfacing in the family again.
Time and Additional Help
Sometimes, teenagers need time and distance to allow bitterness to drift away. In many cases, teenagers will eventually return to a healthy baseline. If bitterness continues to worsen or does not fade away, you may consider taking your child to a counselor or family therapist. A professional may be able to help your child address the sources of his bitterness, along with methods to cope and move on from those feelings.
- KidsHealth: Taking Charge of Anger
- KidsHealth: What can I do about my Anger?
- PBS: The Toxic (and Intoxicating) Effects of Resentment
- Mayo Clinic: Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness
- PBS: Understanding Forgiveness
- PBS: Resentment Part 2
- KidsHealth: Depression
- Healthy Children: How to Resolve Conflicts with your Teen
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images