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Helping Teens When They Cry

by Flora Richards-Gustafson

Crying is a natural response to emotions and pain. It's a release of emotionally filled energy and a survival mechanism to communicate feelings or needs. Teens are no strangers to the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with surging hormones and increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, as noted in a March 2008 article published in the journal, "Developmental Review." When the flood gates open, instead of acting uncomfortable or distressed, simply ask how you can help.

Let the Tears Flow

When a teen begins to cry, ask him what’s wrong. If he says, “Nothing,” don’t push him to talk. While ignoring s teen can make him feel worse or neglected, sitting with the young person and letting him know that it’s OK to “get it all out” is often therapeutic. According to a PsychCentral article by Therese J. Borchard, author of "Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression" and "The Pocket Therapist: An Emotional Survival Kit,” crying helps expel toxins in the body that build up from stress, eliminates excess manganese and lowers stress.

Let the Teen Talk

With hormones running amuck, reasons for crying can include embarrassment, chipped nail polish after a new manicure, confusion or experiencing a loss. Letting a teen tell you about her troubles is a healthy way for her to work out her frustrations, sadness, anger, confusion or other negative emotions. If a teen’s reason for crying seems silly, don’t minimize it, or give her false reassurances, notes clinical psychologist Sarb Johal. Keep in mind that the reason the teen is crying is important to her at this moment -- and providing support that's free of judgment can help the young person feel better.

Give a Hug

When you give a person a hug, you stimulate the release of oxytocin, the “happiness hormone,” note Mehmet Oz, M.D. and sociologist Christine Carter, Ph.D. in an article on the Dr. Oz Show website. When oxytocin levels increase, blood pressure and stress decrease. Even a pat on the back can help a teen who is crying. However, depending on the situation, the teen and your relationship with him, physical contact is not always appropriate, so use your best judgment.

Considerations

There is a big difference between teen sadness and depression. Some teens are more emotional than others and cry when they’re happy, sad, or simply see others cry — crying is their go-to coping mechanism. However, teens who feel discouraged, hopeless or sad for at least two weeks might suffer from depression, according to the KidsHealth website. Signs of depression can include lack of motivation, a change in eating habits, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, trouble concentrating, lack of interest in activities once enjoyed, feeling sick and a lack of motivation. If a teen is depressed, connecting him with a mental health professional and offering support are often the best forms of help that you can offer.

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