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How to Talk to Teenagers: Keeping Your Cool When Things Get Heated

We talk to parents a lot about the teenage brain and the development of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) during adolescence. We know that young people need a lot of practice managing their emotional impulses and that, for some teens, things can turn rocky or explosive on a dime.

When your teen's PFC heads out to lunch, sometimes it can be difficult for you to access yours as well! This is when you can be dragged in to screaming matches and power struggles if you aren't careful. If you feel yourself getting heated with your teen, try these steps to keep your cool:

  • Take a couple of deep breaths. Gather the forces of your prefrontal cortex!
  • When it's time for you to enforce a consequence, take a minute and visualize how you want to handle it. Picture yourself as calm and firm.
  • Remind your teen that it was his choice that is causing the consequence. Don't expect him to respond calmly. He may try to talk his way out of it or escalate into an argument. Don't join him.
  • If you feel yourself losing your cool, pause a moment and try to remember this advice: When you feel like taking the wind out of his sails, it is a better idea to take your sails out of his wind.
Good luck! 
Dr. Dave