Your Teen’s Pandemic Routine: Expectation V. Reality (why you and your teen feel exhausted from all this free time!)

Why your teen gets so “snappy” about the little stuff, and what to do about it…

I know I have been writing a fair amount about working with children lately, but I also work with teens, and I wanted to share a concern that their parents often have. We all know teens are raging with hormones that are super confusing, but that doesn’t make it any less hurtful when they jump down our throats about a seemingly small thing. If you feel like your teen snaps at the drop of a hat about little things, read on…

#1: It’s not little to your teen. What may seem like a benign issue to you is a huge deal. Whether they did their homework is a dig to their ability to be responsible, ‘how was your day’ is met with a thought that ‘you couldn’t possibly understand!’ (see #3). So first, I want you to recognize that your teen is struggling with how to balance independence and needing you to help them meet their goals. This is a tough challenge for the adolescent brain.

#2: Don’t tell your teen what to do when they come to you with a problem. “Have you tried…xyz” is bound to be met with a “YES MOM! ARGH!” Your teen wants to be listened to, not offered solutions, EVEN IF they come to you saying “I don’t know what to do”. ? That doesn’t mean I want you to clam it. Try this instead: if you’re wondering if they’ve tried a solution, flip your question on it’s head: “What have you tried so far to fix it?” This leaves your teen with the ability to take responsibility and share how hard they’ve tried. Give them a minute if they first say “nothing”… they may be too overwhelmed to think.

#3: Don’t reassure them. WHAT?!? It’s your job to help your child feel safe and I’m telling you not to tell them everything is going to be ok?? YUP. Sit in that uncomfy feeling for a minute. ?Your teen doesn’t believe you when you say it (see #1), so it’s not meaningful. Instead, say “You’re wondering if you’ll find a solution”. You’re naming your teen’s thoughts. mic drop.

#4. Validate. Do stuff like I just said above: repeat what your teen is feeling and help them feel like it makes sense to have these feelings given their experiences.

#5. Help them learn to not make things worse with rash decisions. In my teen group that starts in October we will cover over and over again how to not make things worse when your teen feels big feelings. Teens benefit most from learning with/from their peers (back to that brain science stuff: the teenage brain is wired to prioritize social acceptance over ALL ELSE) so group therapy is actually more effective than individual alone for adolescents. Learn more about what we’ll cover here:


What to do when your teen’s BIG feelings are overwhelming…

Most parents we speak to feel stuck with their teen’s big feelings, because when they try to help problem solve their met with “you don’t get it!” or “that’s not gonna work!” It can feel like you’re just trying to keep your head from being bitten off. 

When teens share their frustration or their worry, (or huffs and puffs and door slamming) they don’t want you to try and fix the problem. Your teen probably already knows what they need to do. The problem they’re having is whether they feel secure in trusting their gut, or a worry that they’ll make it worse if they can’t get their big feelings under control.

Because when you go through life feeling ALL THE FEELINGS all the time, you can eventually get numb to them until you explode. So if your teen is sensitive, or a perfectionist, this might lead them to judge themselves or feel ashamed for even having feelings about something that didn’t go well in the first place.

So, when you point out a solution, (we get it, it’s automatic, you’re just trying to help!) you’re met with resistance in it’s ugliest form. Can put a damper on your vacation, can’t it?

So, instead of jumping to help your teen problem solve, clasp your hands tightly. Give your mouth a zipper, and nod. Repeat back to your teen what you heard. Even the last three words your teen said as a lead in question: “it’s not working?” Can help your teen feel heard. Listened to. And obtain the freedom to slow down enough to get their spinning thoughts under control.

Here’s the catch: this skill doesn’t always work like a magic wand. It’s the tip of the iceberg. And let’s face it, your teen still needs to learn how to slow down their reactions so you’re not met with constant irritability when you try to help.

If that’s something you want support or direction with, reach out for a complimentary call. We’ll talk about what works best for you and your teen to learn the skills to help life a more peaceful life.


When your hopes don’t match up with your teen’s motivation.

When parents feel like their goals for their teen don’t match up with their teen’s, it can get tricky.

Another holiday has passed, and parents could be struggling to see how they can help their teen get it together for the second half of the school year. 

We speak with parents who have tried holding their teen’s hand through schoolwork, tried reducing privileges, and neither of those work. They start to feel stuck that their teen hasn’t learned to take responsibility yet. But they know that just makes things worse. 

The truth is, a parent’s motivation for their teen’s success just might not match what their teen values, and so they could be stuck speaking different languages at home. 

 But when they try to relate, they’re met with eye rolls, or a teen shuts down. It’s rough. 

At Thompson Child Therapy, we teach teens how to find the inner drive to make their life worth living so they can stop reacting to their emotions in the moment and feel focused on the future. 

Teens need to learn how to find a balance. What parents might’ve seen as the drive for perfection when their teen was younger might have led to a lack of motivation in the teen years when they didn’t reach their goals immediately.

By focusing on the ability to see small incremental progress through tracking effective behavior AND ineffective behavior, we help teens climb out of the cavern of giving up that can seem like hope is futile. 

But with skills and a focus on the teen’s true dream, one met without comments like “let’s be realistic” or “how will you ever be an artist if you can’t do your homework,” (comments we know come from parents at times of frustration but are rooted in hope and love) we can help teens find the motivation to succeed. Even if they’ve given up and have been feeling sad and worried for quite some time, or they were told by other professionals that they couldn’t reach this goal given how they’re struggling right now.

With a clear sense of where they want to go, we help teens find the inner commitment to make it happen DESPITE setbacks (not without them). By preparing in advance (something we call troubleshooting) we help teens feel solid in their decision to live a life focused on possibilities, not whatever isn’t working or going their way. 

Reach out for support if you feel your teen could benefit from this approach.…/teen-anxiety-and-depres…/


Why Teens Say Deep Breaths Don’t Work

We hear from parents all the time that they work hard to support their teen to use their coping skills only to be met with this stuck feeling that the skill won’t actually calm their teen down. This can be scary for parents whose teens are struggling with dark thoughts.

The truth is, deep breaths are just one piece of the puzzle. It’s actually not that easy for teens with big feelings to stop, notice the big feeling in its intensity and take action. Taking a deep breath can work, but a teen has to catch it early or to do it long enough to calm the body’s nervous system, which is activated every time your teen feels a big feeling. 

This is quite a challenge for a teen who judges themselves for even having the big feelings in the first place. We work with teens to first acknowledge their emotion and stop the judgment. Saying “don’t worry” or “everyone has feelings” isn’t impactful for teens who feel deeply. 

What we help teens realize is that even if you feel big feelings, and feel singled out because of this, there are still people out there like you, and it’s why our groups are so helpful. Teens learn the strategies without venting about their days when they come to group (because that’s counterproductive in DBT, and why we actually call it skills class, not skills group!) 

They feel a part of a community without being overwhelmed, and when they witness the skills working for other teens they feel engaged enough to try them at home even if their parents have struggled to get them to do it on their own before. And parents feel supported because in skills class it’s built into the curriculum to achieve motivation for your teen to do the skills and accountability to follow through… Parents are always happy to stop nagging if it means they’re not giving up or giving in!

Teens get the support they need to make actionable change, take ownership over their emotions and actions without shame, and learn to stop the self-judgment and panic.


Your teen is doing the best they can, AND they need to do better.

When teens meet with our therapists, skeptical about whether or not we can help, one of the first things we agree on is a no-blame policy.

This is one of the core assumptions we teach here in DBT. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a structured, skills-based therapy that teaches your teen to accept themselves as they are, WHILE focusing on how to change their unsafe behavior, or extreme emotional outbursts. 

Teens feel supported alongside their parents’ dreams for them because they are able to find what works to meet the goals of the whole family.

So when teens come to us anxious, wishing they didn’t have to go to school, fearful of messing up on their tests but not studying until the last minute…

…or struggling to see the point of it all, depressed and disinterested in family activities… and engaging in risky behaviors instead…

…or angry, stuck yelling that their parents don’t get it or never listen, but their parents so desperately want to understand…

…they feel understood. They feel validated. And they TAKE ACTION toward their true vision for themselves because they KNOW we’ve got their back as they figure it all out.

Because the #1 problem that keeps your teen stuck is an assumption they make that they’re wrong for making mistakes. 

We know this from the research— the reason your teen isn’t opening up isn’t because they don’t know how, don’t care, or don’t want to. It’s because they judge themselves for needing help in the first place.

When we start there, breaking down that belief with your teen, that they’re okay…

AND can live a different life— that there’s nothing wrong with them… 

…your teen SHIFTs their ability to WANT to try different behaviors. Because the internal defensiveness is gone when discussing making changes. 

So the hope and perception that your teen CAN act and feel differently becomes more than hope for your teen— it becomes their inner truth.

A truth YOU feel so certain in already, and have been struggling to raise your teen to believe for themselves.

Click here to learn more about how these skills are taught to your teen so they can enjoy a life worth living.


The Best Way to Figure Out What Your Teen is Thinking…Without 20 Questions

“Is that why you’ve been so angry lately?” Often genuine curiosity like this from a parent is met with a scoff or an eye roll from their teen. We’re here to tell you why that is, and how to get around it.

It’s easy to worry about why your teen is acting a certain way, whether that be yelling, isolating in their room, never being home, or talking until wee hours of the night on FaceTime with their boyfriend, (literally doing nothing….it’s just on in the background).

When you notice behavior like this it’s hard to figure out the cause in order to stop it. Especially if your teen won’t open up.

What we know is that validating your teen in the moment is the best and most effective way to learn more about what your teen is thinking.

When you inquire with your teen about why they’re feeling a certain way, they may or may not tell you…

…either because they don’t know, or because the way you ask why is missing the mark for your teen in the moment they’re being emotionally vulnerable with you, so they clam up.

When you help your teen know that their emotions are normal and to be expected (don’t confuse emotions with behavior!) your teen automatically feels understood.

What happens when a teen feels understood? They share more.

If your teen is struggling with anxiety, depression, or is healing from a traumatic experience, it’s crucial that you know how to validate.

Telling your teen “it makes perfect sense that you feel like that… especially given what just happened” helps your teen know you GET IT.

You may not have all the answers, that’s what our support is for, but when you’re ready to listen and hear how your teen feels their feelings deeply, your teen is bound to share more often.


To learn more about what works to support your teen in managing big emotions and to open up, click the link below: