Common Questions Parents Ask About Teens’ Emotional Development

Teens can be unpredictable. Some days they’re social, outgoing and happy; and other days they’re stressed, anxious and contentious. And the cause of this emotional rollercoaster? Most likely, it comes down to their emotional development. 

The teen years are filled with changes that can be overwhelming, sometimes resulting in erratic behavior. Their emotions often come on much stronger than those of a fully developed adult, and because they are in the prime of their cognitive development, they might not know how to handle those feelings. 

But as a parent living through all of these changes, it can be difficult to know what’s normal, what’s a passing phase, and when to intervene and give them the extra attention they might need. So to help, we’re answering some of parents’ most common questions regarding their teens’ emotional development.

My teen seems more irritable, is that normal?

Although it may seem like you and your teen are getting into more conflicts, this is absolutely normal. During these years, teens experience intense emotions and unpredictable mood swings. Because their brain is still developing, and their hormones raging, it’s normal for arguments between you and your child to peak. It can be frustrating, but it isn’t forever, and it is a sign that your child is maturing.

My teen is spending a lot of time alone. Should I be worried?

Adolescents are in a constant state of building independence and finding their identity. If your teen seems to be distancing themselves from you, they are likely hitting the developmental stage in which they want to branch out, and be on their own in any way they can. However, it is also common for teens to experience sadness or depression; which could include symptoms like social isolation, not enjoying activities they used to, changes in sleeping and eating habits, and more. If you do suspect your teen might be suffering from depression, it may be time to intervene. Bring up your concerns in a gentle, non-confrontational way, and encourage them to reach out for help to you, another trusted adult, or a medical professional. 

How should I discuss sexuality with my teen?

Many parents wonder when it’s time to have “the talk.” Discussing relationships and sexuality in an open way will help your teen be better prepared for this time in their life. The best time to do this is in simple, everyday moments, rather than bundling it all into one large conversation. Try choosing a calm time that you are both present and not distracted, and avoid bringing it up while your teen is stressed or busy. You can start by asking them questions, to find out what they already know. This can help drive the conversation and correct any misinformation they might have. Remember to be open and non-judgmental to help foster trust between you and your teen. For more tips and talking points when it comes to sex, read this article. 

Why does my teen seem more stressed than usual?

Teens in today’s society experience a ton of pressure! Not only is your teen dealing with the challenges of school, they are also going through unprecedented emotional and social changes, all during a global pandemic. Teens have increased physical, social, and emotional pressure put on them from all angles. Throughout this, they are still adapting and learning to cope with these stressors, which may result in stress overloads. Helping to support them and encourage them as they navigate these pressures can help them to become more resilient and handle stress better. Supporting them can include encouraging physical exercise, providing healthy foods, being open to conversations, and offering up activities you can do together. Avoid trying to solve your teen’s problems for them, or they’ll miss out on the developmental stage where they learn how to do things on their own.

My teen is making potentially risky decisions. Should I get involved? 

It’s possible that your teen will go through a stage where they struggle with decision making. This can mean they act impulsively without considering consequences. As your teen’s brain develops, they are often more influenced by their peers, and are still learning what types of real consequences their actions have. A big part of their emotional development is independence, and sometimes they’ll do anything to get that, even acting rebellious. Eventually, they will be able to make smarter and healthier decisions, but this is where social emotional learning can really help them during this time of potential risky behavior. It is important to maintain open communication during this time, and try to keep track of your teen’s friends and what they are doing together. The closer your relationship is with your teen, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors. Allow teens freedom and independence, while also making sure they understand the risks and consequences of their actions. If you feel your teen is making choices that are a danger to themselves or others, have a conversation with them and work towards finding a solution to keep them safe and happy.

How can I support my teen’s emotional development overall?

As a parent, you want to help your teen through this time. There are plenty of ways to do this:

  • Actively listen to your teen when they want to talk
  • Respect their feelings
  • Try to see things from their perspective
  • Be open about your own feelings 
  • Model constructive ways to handle these big emotions
  • Stay focused on the positives 
  • Give them praise when they are doing well, and lift them up as best you can. 

With rising pressures of school, social media, extracurricular activities, and a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever before to equip teens with the resources they need to handle anything that comes their way. That’s where social emotional learning programs, like Tilly’s Life Center, come in. By learning how to identify and cope with their emotions, communicate effectively, make responsible decisions and more, they’ll be able to navigate these stressful years with ease.