You might feel bewildered when your teen bursts into tears, but crying is the body's natural response to emotions like stress and sadness. Before you make light of your teen's tears or smother her with questions of "What's wrong?" you may want to take a gentler approach. Your teen might need to just cry it out once in a while and you can either help or hinder the process. As long as the crying jags aren't a regular occurrence, you can rest assured that you have a normal -- and emotional -- teen on your hands.
Gauge Your Involvement
Anyone who's ever heard "Leave me alone!" when approaching an upset teen knows that it's a tricky business. You need to gauge how much involvement your teen wants from you. If you notice your teen crying, avoid asking "What's wrong?" since your teen might immediately go on the defensive or feel embarrassed. Instead, simply check in and ask if there's anything you can do to help. This shows that you respect your teen's emotions and are there as a helping hand -- but only if he needs your help. Otherwise, it's fine to make yourself scarce.
You don't need to be clingy with your teen when she's crying, but a quick hug can definitely help. Your teen may need the physical contact to feel better and it can help you feel closer to her. If she pushes you away, don't take it personally. Instead, you've done your duty to let your teen know that you care.
Psychologist Dr. Sarb Johal warns against undermining your teen's reasons for crying. While a fight with friends or a poor mark on a test might not seem like a big deal to you, it can be fairly earth-shattering for your teen. Rather than dismissing his reasons, use it as an excuse to communicate with your teen about how he can change his path in the future, without the judgment. If he's upset about a mark in school, offer to study late or get a tutor. If he's worked up about his friends, help him discuss solutions to his problems. Make sure your teen knows that you respect his reasons for crying, rather than undermining them as unimportant to you.
After you've given a hug and seen what you can do to help your teen, it's time to give her a little space. Don't overwhelm her with smothering physical contact or constantly checking in when she's crying. In fact, PsychCentral.com notes that crying can be beneficial -- it helps release emotions, lower stress and even elevate mood. Chances are it'll be short-lived and your teen will be back to normal soon.
There are serious differences between the occasional crying jag and teenage depression. If your teen's sadness is accompanied by other symptoms, like a withdrawal from social activities, not caring about anything or anyone, isolation, self-harm, sleep issues and drastic changes in physical appearance, it could be the signs of teen depression, warns FamilyDoctor.org. Talk to your family doctor to receive a referral for a mental health professional in your area.
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