Living"You don't understand me": how to help adolescent children...

"You don't understand me": how to help adolescent children to be less dramatic and relativize what happens to them

When they enter the stage of adolescence, there are many boys and girls who can become dramatic in situations that, for parents, do not have the same degree of importance. Thus, in day-to-day situations, they feel that the world is ending , or they live everything with great intensity.

It is not easy to accompany our adolescent children at this time, and the truth is that you have to have a lot of left hand to accompany them without making them angry, because right away they tell you “you don’t understand me”. Then, how do we do it?

The intensity of adolescence: when everything “is one world”, why does it happen?

We must bear in mind that at this stage of life, adolescents experience many firsts. And in those first times, they are still very inexperienced; It is perhaps the first time that they fall in love, that they experience a breakup, that they have a strong fight with their best friend , that they do not know what they want to study, that they are unmotivated with their studies, that they experience a significant loss…

And added to that inexperience, there is also the emotional immaturity of age. All this, added to the personality of each young person and their emotionality, contributes to our children being able to live things very intensely.

In addition, to all this are added two important psychological factors that influence this emotionality , which were studied and described by psychologist David Elkind (Michigan, USA, 1931), and which are:

  • the imaginary audience
  • the personal fable

These two phenomena are described in detail in the article “How Does Your Teen Think?”, but let’s review them briefly:

1. Imaginary audience: thinking that everyone is looking out for them

This phenomenon entails in the adolescent a certain obsession with the image that others have of him. He further assumes that everyone watches him, constantly, and becomes very self-aware , as if he were performing for an “imaginary audience”.

As a result, he may feel more sensitive about everything, and intensify the things he experiences, because he personalizes everything towards him, as if everyone is aware of what he does or says.

2. Personal fable: feeling unique

Through the personal fable, the adolescent feels like a unique being in the world (somewhat reminiscent of the egocentric stage of younger children). And yes, of course they are unique and special, but we are talking about a more rigid bias, which leads them to think that their feelings and opinions are totally different from those of the rest , always.

And also, to experience that no one has experienced things like them, which would increase the degree of “dramatism” with which they experience everything and the degree of misunderstanding they feel. “No one understands me, I have only experienced this.”

How to accompany them?

1. Validate emotions but don’t expand on them.

It is about validating their feelings and emotions (“I understand you, you have the right to feel this way, what you feel is valid…”), but without expanding or intensifying them.

That is, do not make the matter into something bigger than it is. How can we do it? For example through quoted comments and also avoiding comments that intensify symptoms.

2. Put it in the present

When adolescent children dramatize certain situations, it is often because they put themselves in the worst, they think that the worst will pass, or they say phrases like “nothing makes sense anymore”, “I will never be okay again”, etc.

As a curious fact, in this case, they are having a cognitive distortion that is “the fortune teller’s error” (thinking that they can guess what will happen in the future) , and when these distortions act, they lose the objectivity of reality and that can make suffer.

Thus, his mind goes to the future. Well, let’s try to bring them back to the present; we can use phrases like “don’t think about how bad something can go, think that now it is going well, and that’s what matters”, or “maybe now you feel that way, but this won’t last forever”. The idea is that the emotions of the present do not make them define their future (or think they can predict it).

3. Remind him of similar situations

It can also help to remember similar situations in the past that you were able to overcome. For example, “You experienced this a few months ago and over time you felt better, why should it be any different now?” It is about making them see that, even if they are very sad now, or very angry, that emotion will not last forever.

4. Help him to relativize

Help them to relativize what is happening. If, for example, they feel bad because a friend hasn’t invited them to a party, and that party was very important to them, and they start saying things like “nobody wants to be with me” , “I’m worthless”, “I don’t have friends”, We can start by detecting these deterministic adverbs in their language, such as: “never”, “always”, “no”…

Let us make them see that just because they have not been invited to a party does not mean that:

1. They will never be invited again.

2. They are less interesting or nobody likes them.

3. They miss something very important that will never be repeated.

5. Help him identify his internal dialogue

When teens go into drama mode, it’s often because they have internalized a very rigid internal dialogue (the way they talk to themselves). For example, they include many deterministic adverbs in their language to describe how they feel or what is happening to them, with words or phrases such as “never”, “always”, “I’m a bad person”.

For example “he will never invite me to a party again”, “I’m a bad friend”, “I’m horrible”… It’s about beginning to identify those patterns and replacing those words, little by little, with more flexible ones. , like “perhaps”, “perhaps”, “can be”…

We illustrate this with an example to make it easier to understand; It’s not the same to say: “I’ll never be invited to parties again” than “this one I haven’t been invited, but maybe next time I will”, or to say “I’m worthless” than “I haven’t had my best day”. You see the difference? Well, they also have to appreciate that difference and begin to change their internal dialogue.

6. Identify their locus of control: how do they explain what happens to them?

The locus of control has to do with the explanations we give to things that happen to us . It can be internal or external. If it is internal, we tend to think that what happens to us has to do with us (for example, “I got bad grades because I didn’t study”).

If it is external, we attribute what happens to us to factors in the context (“if I got bad grades it is because the teacher dislikes me or because the exam was very difficult”).

Identifying your child’s locus of control will help you understand him better ; when they take things too seriously, it is usually because they have an internal locus of control, and they feel that everything depends on them, that everything is “their fault”.

We must help them make that locus more flexible so that it is also external when the situation requires it, and they do not blame themselves for things that are not their responsibility.

7. Relativize you too

Remember that we are role models for our children on many occasions (although sometimes we are not so aware). And it is that the children, even being adolescents, also imitate us. If you relativize, it will be easier for your child to do it too.

For example, if you live in a situation that you don’t like, and you feel bad about it, it’s not about hiding it, but about showing it but without reaching an extreme . If your children see you relativize things, it is easier for them to know: 1. that it is possible to do it, and 2. how they can start doing it.

Photos | Cover (Freepik)

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