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How to Deal With an Upset Teenager

by Tammy Dray

Most parents are familiar with upset teens because growing up stirs up feelings of anger or sadness in many teenagers. If you find your teen being upset occasionally, it might just be him trying to figure out his feelings. If it happens frequently, however, you need to step in and try to help -- without overstaying your welcome. You have a fine line to walk with an upset teen.

Try to figure out how he's feeling before you say or do anything. An upset teen could be angry or could just be sad or bothered by something that happened recently. A teen who's always upset might be dealing with deeper issues, such as bullying, feelings of abandonment or other problems at school or home. Aim to know what's going on before you sit down for a talk -- teens might be reluctant to talk about some issues unless you bring them up.

Avoid accusations or scolding. These can make things worse and might cause your teen to shut down. Even worse, it could cause your teen to stop trusting you with his problems, so you'll be left in the dark regarding what's going on or how to help.

Practice active listening. Ask a question or two and then let your teen speak -- even if it feels as though he's just rambling and avoiding the main details. Pay attention and use affirming words like "I understand" or "OK" while listening, so your teen knows you're paying attention. Don't interrupt the story to offer your opinion or to add useless comments such as, "I knew that was going to happen." The only thing that's going to accomplish is upsetting your teen more.

Give your teen space. Just because you're asking doesn't mean your teen will want to talk about what's bothering him. If you notice that your teen is upset, ask what's going on and offer to listen. If he says he doesn't want to talk, let him know you're available to listen whenever he's ready -- and then walk away.

Help your teen work on his problem-solving skills. In many cases, being upset is caused by not knowing how to deal with a circumstance, according to the Center for Young Women's Health. If your teen is willing to talk while he's upset, try to help him figure out what the problem is, what caused it and what he could do to solve the problem. Or work with him when he's not upset, so he can learn the skills he needs to apply them during difficult times.

About the Author

Aside from writing experience, I also have coaching/teaching experience, both as an writing coach (currently teaching three workshops at www.coffeehouseforwriters.com) and an ESL (English-as-a-Second-Language)teacher abroad. I'm a certified Nutrition Consultant and fitness trainer and a longtime contributor to health/wellness publications, from Self to Marie Claire. I am fluent in Spanish and have worked as a translator and a language instructor. I also have two books forthcoming in 2008.

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