Managing Mom's Emotions

I meet with moms on a regular basis and a common theme I hear is the difficulty they have in controlling their own emotions when their teen daughter is starting to freak out and have her emotional break down.

Moms feel guilty that they “lost it”.  Moms cry, yell, curse, walk away and slam doors just like their daughters.  This is pretty normal and happens to most families.  I literally had my own mother scream and walk away last week while we were moving furniture.  It happens to the best of moms.

Your intentions are not to hurt your daughter.  You are human and you have emotions just like she does.  Unfortunately in the midst of her meltdown, your meltdown can definitely make it worse and cause more harm then help.

Learning to manage your own emotion and deal with it is critical to building a stronger relationship with your daughter.  So what can you do?

Know your vulnerability factors – Did you have a bad day at work? Are you sick? Are you tired? Are you hungry? Are you having problems with your spouse? Problems with your family?  There are so many situations that make us vulnerable to our emotions.  We need to be very aware of this or you can end up doing damage with your words.

Is she you?  So often I hear moms say “I get her because she is just like me.”  “We are the same”.  Often it’s like you are responding to yourself.  Be aware of this.  A teen daughter who is similar to you will bring out a lot of your own junk.  Be prepared to deal with it.

Learn to pause.  This is simple yet very hard.  Practice taking a long pause before you respond to her.  It is OK to say or do nothing until you are calmer.  It’s advised.  Take some deep breaths.  Take a break (but tell her you will be coming back to deal with whatever is happening).

Slow down.  You do not have to rush into “fix it” mode.  Too often when your daughter is in high emotion it creates this sense of urgency within mom to act immediately.  You don’t have to give into that feeling.  You can slow down your response.  You don't have to make it all better.  Often she needs to figure it out.

Ask for forgiveness.  If you lose it.  Go back and apologize.  Don’t justify it.  Straight up apologize.  It’s great to model and your daughter will SERIOUSLY respect you for this.  They notice when you don’t and you should have.  It drives a wedge.

What is your go to emotion and/or behavior?  Is it anger? sadness? hurt? passive-aggressive behaviors? yelling?  Know yourself so you can deal with it.  Girls will watch you, study you in fact.  I am amazed what they pay attention to and how they read you.  They will test you with something to see how you react.  If you fail the test she will not reveal anything deeper.  They tell me this directly.

Opposite urge.  If your emotional urge is strong to get angry, do the opposite and go to a more loving stance.  This is a key DBT skill I teach girls who are struggling to manage emotion.  Sometimes you have to just do the exact opposite of what your emotions are telling you because it will be more effective.

Get help.  If you are dealing with intense emotions or life situations that are overwhelming, the best thing you can do for your daughter is get your own help and learn how to really deal with the problems that are causing the emotions to be out of control.

Build your team.  Make sure you have your own support... friends, family, pastor, counselor... all if necessary.  You need opportunity to vent and deal with your emotions.

Most importantly give yourself some grace.  You will blow it and that is OK.  She will rebound.  The problem is when you are caught in a cycle or pattern of your emotions creating more drama then necessary given the situation. 

If someone told you the teen years are easy, they lied.  These years are some of the most difficult because of her emotional growth and she will definitely challenge you in ways you never dreamed.  Stay strong!!  you can do this :)