The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

Should parents get onto teens when they are depressed? My dad got mad at me because I just wanted to go to my room. He thought I was acting "ridiculous" for "having a bad attitude," but really I was holding back emotions because of some bad things that happened. (And the testosterone was very strong. I could feel it.) Was it right for my mom and dad to get mad at me just because I was upset and wanted to go to my room? Because of their actions, I'm worse than before.

Answer

A few things for you to consider.

First, because your hormones are going crazy, you are more sensitive. It isn't just that you might feel depressed, you also tend to over-react to what people say to you.

Second, it is known that teenagers can't read body language and facial expressions accurately. Teens tend to see emotions expressed by the face or body as being more extreme than it really is. See "Adolescent Brain Development" for a discussion of why.

I suspect that if I were observing the events that happened, your parents were disapproving of what they saw as over-dramatics and wanted you to calm down. My guess is that it started out as a mild rebuke, but quickly spiraled out of control as you took things as being more harsh than intended. I'm guessing as well that after you left the room your parents probably looked at each other with puzzled expressions and asked, "What do you suppose triggered that?"

Which leads to my next point, many parents don't realize the turbulence of emotions that are going on in their children. That is because people tend to expect other people to feel as they do, so while they are mildly concerned and expect you to be mildly upset, you are a kettle ready to boil over and see them as being on the verge of insanity as well. And not every parent understands that teens don't read body language well -- children don't come with instruction manuals, so if you're their first to hit puberty, they might be caught off guard.

While going to your room to calm down is a good idea, there are better ways to handle the emotional overload. Go for a long walk, ride your bike, or do a bunch of exercises (push-ups, crunches, jumping jacks, etc.). The activity will give your body an outlet for the adrenaline that is building up because of your emotions and it gives you something else to focus on. This works whether you are feeling angry, depressed or overly giddy.

Please realize that your parents, though imperfect, are trying to do their best by you. If you and your folk aren't seeing eye-to-eye, take a deep breath and consider how you might be making matters worse and how you can calm the situation down. Never blame someone else, even a parent, for your decisions or your emotions. Yes, your parents might have made a bad choice because they didn't understand, but don't blame them for not being able to read your mind. I know it is hard to speak calmly or logically when your emotions have gone haywire. Since you and I realize this, it is best to cut your folk some slack. They just had a teen explode on them and their nerves are probably frazzled.

Thank you so much! You were exactly right about everything. You've been a very big help. :)