Like a sneeze, it comes out of nowhere. I call it an "adolescent attack." Your normally calm child suddenly explodes into heartbreaking sobs. Or you ask your son a simple question, only to be answered by an outburst of anger. Where do these explosions of emotion come from?
Nobody knows, not even your teenager.
One probable culprit is the drastic hormone surge transforming your child's body into that of an adult. Another is the emphasis middle schoolers put on popularity and peer approval?which can leave your teen struggling to feel good about himself.
But explanations aren't enough to help you and your teen deal with the extreme emotions that arise during an attack. The intense, hormone-driven feelings of powerlessness, loneliness and passion are frightening to both of you. What you need are strategies.
Start with gentle humor. When your teen blows up, try saying in a respectful, yet lighthearted way, "Whoa! Let's go back and start over. What do you want to talk about?" This shows that you realize this behavior isn't normal and that there is a solution. Then you can begin to equip your young teen to not sin in his anger (Eph. 4:26).
Give your teen the following tools for dealing with the inevitable attacks:
Word Power: Encourage your teenager to talk about what makes him mad, sad or glad. Even if you instantly think of a solution, don't share it right way. Putting feelings into words can make the struggle more manageable for your teenager. And often, it leads to a solution.
Hint: If your teen refuses to talk, tell him you'll leave him alone if he gives you at least three sentences. This keeps him from pouting, using the silent treatment or isolating himself.
Will Power: Insist that your teen be nice even when she doesn't feel like it. Say, "You may feel like slugging your brother for stepping on your school project, but hold back. It was an accident, and you can find a solution to keep it from happening again. Maybe we can make a rule that says no one is allowed in the family room when you're working on a project."
Hint: Explain that your teenager is free to have any kind of feeling, but she must express those feelings with kindness and respect. If she doesn't, she'll lose a privilege for each ugly outburst. Talking respectfully about tough subjects is a critical life skill.
God's Power: The power to work through these mood swings comes from God. Nobody feels like being kind when he's in a bad mood. Nobody wants to grind out a solution when she's confused. But we can do it by accessing God's supernatural power. Assure your teen that Jesus Christ himself experienced the emotions of adolescence when he lived on earth and is well-versed in how to guide us through these years (Heb. 4:14-16).
Hint: Don't use spirituality as a club, but as a power source.
Writer, mother of two
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