Big Kids with Big Feelings
Q. I’m afraid my middle-school-aged daughter is going to turn into an “angry teenager.” Things seem to be going well for her right now but she can be unhappy, aggressive and moody, and she sometimes gets physical. She had a very hard time in elementary school. Is it possible that she could be working out feelings from years ago from things that upset her that she might not even be conscious of now? If so, how do I help her deal with them? Does a teenager end up crying to help heal the hurts or do they deal with things in a different way?
The issues that are troubling in early childhood do migrate into adolescence, if the feelings wrapped in early hurts aren’t shared with a supportive adult. This is what creates angry teens: they’ve been trying to hold feelings at bay for a long time. Finding no one who will listen to their feelings makes them feel isolated and frightened—they may not know precisely why they feel upset any longer, but the fact that no one will listen makes it doubly hard. Their early childhood feelings get pasted on present situations—“You never listen to me!” or “You’re not really interested—just go away!” can easily be echoes of earlier experiences that didn’t go well for them or for their parents. When children try to get their upset feelings heard, most of us parents do as the culture tells us. We try to get them to stop crying, or stop being angry. We tell them their upsets are trivial. Then, children have to bottle it all up once again. So the fear and sadness they have stored since early childhood erupt cloaked in anger by the time they are teens, because the feelings of isolation have created a thick cover over the frightened, vulnerable feelings they need to express as healing tears and trembling release the tension.
This is no fault of yours–it happens in every family. Parents work hard and don’t always get the time they would like to relax and connect with their kids. You can read more about this process in our booklet on Supporting Adolescents.
Reprinted with the permission of Hand in Hand Parenting. © 1997-2011 Hand in Hand
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