Adolescence is a time of major development marked by significant changes. One change that is often recognized during adolescence is an increase in emotionality. Some teens can be negative, moody, and difficult to communicate with. Furthermore, hormonal changes during this period of life can lead individuals to experience strong and sometimes unpredictable changes in affect.
Due to these changes in the emotional lives of adolescents, it becomes increasingly important to help your teenagers learn to appropriately cope with discomfort. In today’s blog, I write about strategies that teenagers can employ to help themselves calm down when feeling upset. Feeling upset can come from a variety of stressors (and teens have lots of them!). Different individuals respond to stress in different ways. The strategies listed here are intended to be starting points for you and your teenage son or daughter to consider. It’s important to remember that what works well on one occasion may not be as effective the next time. As teens continue to develop and mature, they acquire a better sense of how to take control of various emotional states. As humans, while we can’t always change the way we feel, we can consider our typical responses to stress and engage in strategies that can help us cope with uncomfortable emotions.
10 calm-down strategies for teens:
- Talk it out- Unlike younger children who are still learning to use language effectively in a variety of situations, teenagers have increased cognitive and language skills that help them think about their situations and explore potential solutions. If your teenager is upset, it may be helpful to give him/her the opportunity to talk it out. This can include identifying the problem, discussing why it’s a problem, potential solutions, and other thoughts/feelings/reactions to the current situation.
- Draw – Drawing is a form of expression. Sometimes when individuals get very upset, talking (as suggested above) can be challenging. Instead, it may help some teens to draw a picture of something they enjoy, or to express on paper how they are feeling at the moment. Some research has suggested that coloring shapes (such as mandalas) can have calming effects on people.
- Write – Writing is yet another form of expression. Teenagers can write about whatever they’d like. This can serve as a distraction as well as an outlet. It may be helpful for some individuals to keep an ongoing journal or diary and write about their day to day experiences.
- Read – If you’re a reader, then you know that reading can be a soothing or calming activity. Some teens, on the other hand, may hate to read. Remember, there are many things that one can read: books, magazines, comic books, graphic novels, books on tape, etc.
- Music – This is one of my personal favorites. The experience of music can touch the emotional side of many individuals. Teenagers can chose to listen to a song that describes how they feel. Or perhaps they can listen to calming, instrumental music while lying down. Playing an instrument can serve as a great feel-better activity as well!
- Exercise – Regular exercise is good for us for many reasons, including mental health. This suggestion, however, speaks to exercising as a form of directing angry or upset energy.
- Focus on the positives– For example, make a list of things to be grateful for, or of kind acts you noticed today. During times of stress, our outlook is often clouded which makes it easy to only focus on the negatives.
- Change up the setting- Don’t get stuck in a rut. This suggestion is a follow-up from number 6. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of negative. So, when needing to calm down, move to a different room, change the TV/music in the room, adjust the lighting, etc.
- Take a step back from the situation – Reflect on what is really making you mad. Often times our minds can become clouded with the many stressors of life. It’s common for one to displace their anger/frustration on someone close to them. (for example- A sixteen year old got in trouble at school and upon arriving at home “goes-off” on his younger brother for accidentally bumping into him. This sixteen year old isn’t really upset at his brother, he’s upset at getting in trouble earlier in the day.)
- Say what you need (in a respectful yet assertive way) – Teenagers are continuing to build their self-advocacy skills. Advocating for one’s self includes speaking up when necessary and being able to appropriately request what one needs.
Lastly, parents reading this blog are urged to take a close look at your own calm-down strategies and habits. Be sure to model how to stay in control of yourself even in the face of frustration or upset. Do you have more ideas on ways for teenagers to calm themselves? Please share below!