The teenage years tend to bring a lot of drama, confusion and emotions into any family relationship.

Relationship

It’s a recipe for conflict and misunderstanding.

In the midst of the confusion, it’s hard for us as parents to know how to respond to the emotions and behavior we experience from our teens! On the one hand, we want to comfort and protect them. On the other hand, we want them to grow up and get over things that don’t matter.

What we often forget (especially in the moment of conflict) is that teenagers experience emotions at a heightened level due to the elevated hormone levels surging through their bodies. What we see as minor is often all-encompassing for them.

A recent Time article explains how a new study about the differences between the way teens and their parents experience negative interactions offers hope for better relationship and reasoning skills.

The basic idea is that teenagers often experience their parent’s efforts to respond to their emotions and behaviors differently than parents intend.

This makes a lot of sense when you consider that teenagers can’t even understand their own heightened emotions. They lash out in anger more intensely than they realize and then their parents react to that intensity and it continues to escalate.

We can glean a few things from this study:

1. Teenagers often misunderstand their parents and experience discipline more harshly than we intend

When they feel misunderstood, dismissed, or treated harshly, our children are more likely to become more aggressive or shut down.

2. Teenagers want to be heard and understood

With over the top emotions, things that seem minor to parents are major to teens. Sometimes they just need to vent and other times they need someone to hear and understand.

3. Parents can invite conversations that strengthen relationships and reasoning skills

What did your son or daughter hear you communicate? What do they think about what they heard?

Listen to your child. Explain that you want to understand what they think and how they experienced a certain interaction. Ask what they think without judgment.

Take enough time for them to really feel like you’ve heard them, understood them, and appreciate their thoughts and feelings.

When they feel understood, you can explain your perspective and work towards better interactions moving forward.

This whole process of sharing perspectives and working together will strengthen the relationship and improve reasoning skills.