When we have toddlers we usually know why they’re upset. They want something they can’t have, they want to do something they can’t do. Maybe they fell and got an owie. Their reasons for being upset are usually pretty obvious. The reason behind a teen’s sour mood, however, is at times a little more elusive. Maybe they aren’t willing to talk about it yet. Maybe their “owie” is on the inside. When we push them for an explanation by saying something like “What is your problem?!” Or “Either tell me what’s wrong or change that attitude!”, It’s often met with a swift exit or a short curt response such as; “Nothing!”
The truth is, they themselves may not know what is creating the discourse within them. Between hormones and pressure to fit in, school, sports.. it could be something very small that breaks the seal. You could witness a fit of epic proportions because they dropped their fork and you’re so tired of their overreactions. Trust us, it’s not just the fork.
As parents and adults in their lives, it’s important to remember we don’t need to know exactly why they are upset to show empathy. When we respond with grace and understanding we are more likely to de-armor them and be a safe place for them to explore all the reasons that could be making them upset.
Saying something like,
I can see you’re upset. I’m sorry you’re struggling. Life is tough especially at your age. Remember, I was a teen once too. Just know I’m here to help, or if you just want to talk. Most importantly, there is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you.
When we don’t know exactly how to respond as parents, Jesus’ example of unconditional love and grace is never the wrong answer.