Teens Crying All. The. Time. IS A THINGOct 16, 2022
Is your teen crying all the time? Daily? Yes, that is an indicator of just how hard it is to be a teenager. Also. It is how the body naturally lets go of grief, sadness, anxiety, tension and stress.
Is it depression? Maybe. Assessment is important; however, even mental health professionals cannot easily parse what is “teenager” from what is “depression.”
Remember, you are the parent, and you actually know your child. If you don’t, that is the best first place to start. Get to know them better. I have two basic life guides: 1) If it doesn’t fit on a sticky note, it isn’t gonna help, and 2) Starbucks (fill in the blank anywhere with sweet, almost adult drinks) is a relationship must for good chats between teens and parents.
Okay, I might be oversimplifying my life guides, but you get my drift. Connect with your teens regularly to know if what they feel is just “the feels” or if these feels are lethal. By lethal, I mean need more help than you can fit on your sticky notes.
Teens have more intense feelings than children and adults because of life being too hard when one’s prefrontal cortex is not yet fully developed, kids are mean, life sucks, zits reign supreme, and hormones. Nuf said?
Early childhood trauma makes things worse for our teens. Why is that? you asked in my head. Lots of reasons related to an inability to manage emotions and dysregulation by not being hardwired for easy up and down brain-body processes. But, most importantly, that deep wound that tends to be in the center of your child’s heart since the loss of their initial biological connection--AKA the Primal Wound—makes all things disappointing, hurtful, disrespectful, rejecting, mean, and ostracizing feel like a bucket of acid poured on that same spot. The pain is unbearable: the loneliness impossible to bear. The haunting feelings/beliefs about being unlovable, unwanted, undesirable, unattractive, unworthy, and alien are pervasive and persistent rising high above all else on the “life sucks” list.
How to Help a Crying Teenager
Parents hate to see their teens cry a lot and witnessing it is extremely difficult. It’s downright disturbing and makes one feel helpless if you think it is your job to help your children. And, what kind of parent doesn’t think that they should be able to help somewhere deep in their bones? Plus, you worry, right? You worry that your child is not resilient enough to take all this sadness from the slings and arrows of being a teen in today’s world with so much previous primal wounding. I get it.
Here is a list of things, not all the things, but a good little list:
- Be a safe harbor for your teen. Work very hard to up your compassion and lower your demands about clean rooms and turned in homework. I know that you are living in an emotional war zone and teachers send their notes to you, parent; however, be the safety in your teen’s world by not buying into the collective emergency that not getting schoolwork done or living in a house that may be the hip new fast food hang for rats can tend to become in our minds.
- Tools, tools, tools help with stress. Don’t ask your teen to perform these tools right in front of you. Just suggest they go to their room, pull the blinds closed, turn off the lights, breathe, relax those abs, do what they love most--stretch out on the bed for a while and nap (just like in preschool.) Also, help them shake off those negative thoughts that seem to be lost in their heads just like missing socks from the dryer. If you are wondering how one does that, then you are having a bit of personal insight into why they don’t yet know how to do that either. No blame Mama/Papa Bear. Go to: https://www.healthline.com/health/cognitive-distortions#types-of-distortions for a little lesson.
- Make sure they get enough food, sleep, and exercise because no one manages life stress or big emotions on too little. Food, sleep, and exercise deprivation will make a person cry. Period.
- Educate them. Crying is the body’s way of releasing stress, tension, and emotions. You might mention the ugly stigma and shame around crying—which particularly impacts boys (but girls and non-binary, too)—which can increase discomfort and embarrassment about their tearfulness. You might also mention that trying to hold back the tears, rather than allowing themselves to cry openly, can actually increase crying in frequency and intensity. Finally, teens with early childhood trauma often “loathe” feeling vulnerable and “hate” the big red flags that tears seem to be when streaming out of the front of their faces.
- Some of the best songs, poems, and paintings were made as a form of expression of big feels. Give them space and all the supplies they need to begin to locate their inner van Gogh. Journals are still strangely cool.
- Give yourself a break, too. If there is a specific problem, fear, or frustration triggering the tears? Help your teen work it out. Trying to have a balanced, meaningful conversation with a crying teen may not be useful. Simply acknowledging and validating the feelings and maybe the big struggles will help your teen feel supported. Don’t forget my Starbucks philosophy…Seriously, that works just like a long car ride with babies (and teens).
- Go online and ask your teen to do a quick mental health screening on depression to see if maybe there is more to it than meets the casual eye. A high percentage of adolescents are struggling with anxiety, depression, and collective Covid19 and social violence trauma right now. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, reach out for professional support. It probably can’t hurt but keep an open eye on it.
- One final complex trauma-focused thing: if trauma has not been addressed with and in your teen, now is the time. Get thee to a trauma specialist who, without drama, can begin the process of psycho-educating, peeling back the trauma layers, creating a coherent narrative, and supporting the development of a healthier, more resilient internal working belief system for your teen. New neuropathways are likely required for less crying and more thriving.
Carry on, parents. This is part of the incredible gift of raising children—helping them learn to live with more awareness and to find light in the midst of the dark night of the soul, common to most teens at some point along their journey to adulthood. I’m so glad your teen has you, especially if you read all the way to here.
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