Reasons why you shouldn’t worry about teenage angst
Teenage angst describes a feeling of anxiety and dread in teens that is often not focused on anything in particular. More commonly, it relates to aspects of the human condition or the state of the world in general. A lot of parents are very apprehensive at the thought of teen angst, comparing it in their minds to things like teen drinking, failure at school, or underage sex.
Teenagers fret about things like their complexions, and whether members of the opposite sex find them attractive. Parents often forget about the trials and tribulations of their own youth and instead wonder why their teen can’t just put it into perspective and chill out.
The fact of the matter is that it is nigh impossible for teenagers to grow into healthy adults without experiencing feelings of angst along the way. Offering simple platitudes won’t work. Teens only tend to rebel and take no notice. It’s all part of becoming an individual person.
But to help you gain a better understanding of angst, we are going to discuss three reasons that demonstrate that teenager-angst indicates the development of maturity.
The importance of independence to a teenager
What’s going on behind the scenes
Many experts will tell you that the journey through the teenage years is the vehicle for your teen to gain their independence. Angst is a manifestation of the fact that your teenager is desperate for any small concessions towards their independence and that they are anxious to receive more.
Picture a situation where your teen is throwing a tantrum because of some family get-together you’ve told them they must attend. Sound familiar? But, what teenager doesn’t aspire to being able to say how they can spend their time. Their independence is being undermined, and it creates teen stress.
The natural reaction of parents is to bite back, but of course, this often only brings about confrontation and serves to create even more angst in the teen. But what is occurring is that the teen’s desire to argue is not unhealthy or disrespectful. It’s merely your teen trying to become more independent.
Gaining the knack of independence
A teen slamming the door in front of his or her parent’s face as a result of being told to do chores he or she doesn’t wish to, is a manifestation of the teen’s desire to be in charge. Rather than getting angry, as a parent you should try saying something like, “Do you appreciate that slamming doors hurts my feelings?”
You can go on to say, “I understand your feeling of frustration, but instead of slamming the door, why don’t we have a chat about what you could do to be in control of this situation?”
This more rational approach could result in your teen creating his or her own chore list as he or she is determined to become more independent.
Maybe your teen will come up with their own chore list because they want to be autonomous. See if supporting your teen’s desire to be independent teaches them a better way to deal with frustration than explosive angst. It could well be that offering to support your teen’s want to become more independent will teach them options for avoiding angst-generated anger.
Listening to what your team has to say
Standing up to be counted
When teens grow up obeying every fraction of what their parents tell them to do, the likelihood is that they won’t become well-rounded adults. Because as a teen they fail to make and follow their own preferences, they can become timid and be easily swayed by others seeking to take advantage of them.
In other words, allowing a certain amount of rebellion in your teen is actually a good way of teaching them how to stand up for themselves and hold firm to their own beliefs. Someone once said, “if you fall for everything, you stand for nothing.” How true this can be.
Listen to what your teen has to say
Even if it is unreasoned, it’s essential that you should listen to your teen’s argument. It could be that your teen is chasing greater independence, or he or she could have a fundamental disagreement with something you are proposing that affects his or her life.
You can’t understand your teen’s beliefs if you don’t listen to their arguments. Who knows? You may be able to add some reason to an unreasonable argument, or you might listen and agree with what he or she is saying.
Research shows us that teenagers who are more prone to disagree with their moms will not be swayed easily by peer pressure, and they won’t fall to pieces when their beliefs are confronted and argued against.
Angst can help teenagers to learn how to deal with complicated emotions
Strong emotions intensify during the teen years
The change from middle school to high school is one that can be quite dramatic for a lot of teens. School grades become the be-all and end-all. The ending of relationships can feel like the worst thing in the world. On the other hand, being accepted to their dream college can feel like utopia to a teen.
Teen angst is often fuelled by the feeling that the world appears more radical towards teenagers. As a result, they rebel as they get to grips with emotional control.
Angst is a real and complex emotion
As teenagers journey through their teen years, their emotional development becomes more sophisticated, and many of the feelings they experience become recognized as being things like angst, depression, helplessness, and being sorry.
Initially, because teenagers can be at a loss for words to describe many of these emotions, they may simply sum it all up by saying something like, “I just don’t feel good.” However, manifestations of angst in your teen indicate that he or she is getting to grips with a new comprehension of certain dreadful feelings.
It’s not a bad thing. It means that you can strike up a conversation about how your teen feels and expect to get an adult, coherent answer from him or her.
Dealing with teen angst together
The fact of the matter is that it is no bad thing for your teen to have strong feelings of angst as long as it is in a safe place with you in attendance. It can be a great teaching opportunity towards understanding and dealing with negative feelings.
In the end, it’s all about working together. You were a teenager once yourself and probably experienced the same feelings of angst in your teen years. Draw on that experience and work as a team to help your young son or daughter to achieve emotional stability, the same way that you did.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.