Remember that even difficult emotions will pass. When teens are melting down, you need to let them feel their feelings, and get through to the other side. “Remember that emotions are like waves, not fire,” Dr. Damour said. “They rise, crest and recede if we let them run their course. We don’t have to worry that they’re going to grow out of control and we need to try to stamp them out as fast as possible.”
On her website, she has a nine-step process for managing adolescent meltdowns, which begins with listening without interrupting, and involves offering empathy, validating feelings and offering to help problem-solve.
Open up space for connecting. In busy families, so many of our conversations are about logistics (Did you do your homework? Are you hungry? Is the laundry clean?) that we can forget to make room for conversations without an agenda, Dr. Hutner said. This consistent space can take a variety of forms, depending on what works in your house: Maybe you make pancakes together every Saturday morning, or walk the dog together, or drive to soccer practice; it doesn’t need to be more than 10 or 15 minutes on a regular basis. “It’s amazing what will come out” of this time, Dr. Hutner said.
Take care of yourself. If you are experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, addressing them can help you manage your teen’s ups and downs more ably, Dr. Hutner said. For example, brain fog, which is when your thoughts are not as clear as they once were and you may have trouble remembering words, is common among women going through the menopause transition. So speaking to a doctor about how to manage brain fog may be a first step. (The North American Menopause Society’s website lists qualified physicians throughout the country and abroad.)
If you’re in a better place, you may be able to find common ground and even empathy with your teen, Dr. Damour said. Jessica Curtis, 51, of Seattle, whose kids are 19, 16 and 13, said that “learning how to put myself back on a priority list and have enough reserves” of energy has helped her empathize with and enjoy her teens, even in this difficult pandemic year. She said she’s been able to let go of old expectations and rely on other parents more. “I’m sure we have some hard years ahead,” she said, “and I am hopeful we can love each other through them.”