7 Strategies for Addressing Teenage Drama

Address teenage drama in a matter-of-fact manner.
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The emotional roller coaster that accompanies adolescence can be a wild ride. To parents, your teen's over-the-top reactions may seem blown out of proportion. 

And of course, some teens seem to love drama. Whether they're spreading gossip or starting trouble on social media, they thrive on the excitement.

Whether your teen has an on-again off-again romantic relationship or he's having a  meltdown over the latest social media conversation, a daily crisis of some sort may seem inevitable.

 

For parents, the constant turmoil can be frustrating. But, rest assured, this phase should pass.

Much of teenage drama has to do with biology. Brain development and hormonal shifts lead to mood swings that are often behind your teen's reactions.

Sometimes, a teen's desire to turn every minor issue into a major public crisis may stem from a desire to get attention. Once a teen learns healthier ways to get attention, the drama usually subsides.

And other times, dramatic reactions result as teens explore various ways to express their emotions. When they become more comfortable in their own skin, the dramatic presentations tend to decrease.

The way you respond to a teen’s dramatic presentation will either add fuel to the fire or help your teen calm down. These strategies can help you address teenage drama effectively:

1. Use Reflective Listening

Avoid jumping in to solve the problem right away. Giving unsolicited advice is only likely to make the situation worse.

Use reflective listening to show that you’re trying to understand the facts about the situation. Say something like, "So what I hear you saying is that your teacher fails your papers just because she doesn't like you?" 

2. Validate Your Teen’s Feelings

Even if you don’t think your teen’s latest problem constitutes a crisis, avoid telling her she’s overreacting.

Instead, validate your teen's feelings by saying something such as, “I can see you’re really angry about what happened at lunch today.”

Help your teen label her feelings and then say something that validates it's OK to feel that way. A teen who feels understood can begin finding ways to cope. 

3. Stay Calm

Whether your teen is completely panicked over the latest rumor, or she insists her life is ruined because you’ve said she can’t go out on Friday night, it's essential to stay calm. Matching your teen’s level of emotion by yelling or expressing frustration will make the situation worse. 

Avoid engaging in a heated discussion. If your teen is yelling or behaving disrespectfully, tell her you’re happy to talk about it when she can do so in an appropriate manner. Step outside, take a deep breath, or agree to revisit the conversation later.

4. Teach Emotion Regulation Skills

Explain that it’s okay to feel angry, worried, and sad, but make it clear that intense feelings don’t excuse bad behavior. Teach your teen to be in control of her emotions so her emotions don’t control her. Spend time teaching anger management skills and emotion regulation skills so she can find healthy ways to deal with her feelings.

5. Encourage Problem-Solving

Teach problem-solving skills by brainstorming solutions together. For example, if she’s convinced she’s never going to pass high school because she failed a test, discuss what she can do to increase the likelihood that she’ll be able to pass. Talk about her choices and the steps she can take.

6. Boost Your Teen’s Skills

A teen who isn’t sure how to strike up a conversation may immerse himself in the drama as a way to get attention. Similarly, a teen who isn’t sure how to deal with loneliness may create drama to get attention. Take notice of your teen’s skill deficits and be willing to teach new communication skills, conflict resolution skills, and anger management skills.

As your teen’s self-confidence grows, his desire to get caught up in the drama will also likely decrease. Get him involved in lots of different activities as well. A busy teen will have less time to create drama.

7. Foster Gratitude

Dramatic reactions often stem from a sense of injustice—real or imagined. Fostering a sense of gratitude will help your teen focus on what he has, rather than demand he deserves better. Teach your teen to notice all the positive things going on his life and you'll likely reduce the drama fast. 

Sources

Froh JJ, Yurkewicz C, Kashdan TB. Gratitude and subjective well-being in early adolescence: Examining gender differencesJournal of Adolescence. 2009;32(3):633-650.

Nesdale D, Durkin K, Maass A, et al. Peer group rejection and childrens outgroup prejudiceJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 2010;31(2):134-144.

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