A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

How to be a No-Drama Mama (or Papa)

Posted by Linda Rosenberg McGuire on April 9, 2015

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No_DramaYou know the saying, “save the drama for your mama?” Many teenagers do just that. Teens are inclined to vent to their parents, using emotional hyperbole to drive home a point, so we can get a sense of exactly how strongly they are feeling about a subject…in that moment.

Many parents forget the ephemeral nature of the stories, concerns, upsets, and even devastations that their teens share with them. Rather than allowing their teenagers space to vent, they end up getting upset about situations that their child is probably ready to let go of. How can you be an understanding listener without taking on your teenager’s drama?

Here are some ideas to keep your reactions in check:

  1. Always keep in mind that many teenagers use extremely strong language to get their point across. Remember that time they told you they hate you? They don’t. Nor do they really hate all of their friends, their teachers, their classes, or whatever else they are expounding on. Hate is a strong word, often overused, to bring clarity and intensity to their powerful, but temporary opinions. It can be quite cathartic for a teenager to spit a little hate and venom. They are releasing their feelings, and so please release yours about theirs at the same time.
  2. Conversely, there is often a whole lot of love going around at the same time. Young love can be intense between the mix of hormones and brain chemistry, along with the novelty of it all, teenagers fall in love hard and fast. Let your child experience the vagaries of love on their own. They are practicing how to manage a love relationship and they need to do this on their own and without harsh judgment. They may make quite a few poor judgment calls in choice of partner, but better to do this as a teenager than as an adult. Resist involving yourself in their love life…and never get too attached to their boyfriend or girlfriend. Most likely, there will be quite a few to follow.
  3. Remind yourself repeatedly that your teenager can and will handle whatever social challenges come their way. A break-up won’t kill them. Nor will being left out of a trip to the mall, an argument with a friend, a bad grade on a paper, a test or even a class. They will survive all this and more on the journey to adulthood.
  4. You can certainly feel sympathy, even empathy for your teenager. Your heart can soar or ache when their heart soars or aches. But it is your job as the parent to keep your emotions in check. Teenagers care deeply about how their parents feel, and if they see you devastated by something in their lives, it is alarming for them. Believe it or not, those same creatures that sometimes appear to be entirely self-absorbed will start to worry about you. That only serves to amp up the volume of whatever issue they are dealing with and drains their energy from focusing on what they are practicing, how to live life on their own.

The teenage years are exciting ones, filled with highs and lows, sorrow and joy. Try your best to let your teenager experience all these feelings without intervening, overreacting, crying or yelling. Be the port in your teen’s storm and you will find that the rough seas of adolescence not only become theirs to navigate alone, but that chances are the winds die down quicker than if you swirl around with them.

Topics: How to manage the mood swings

Linda Rosenberg McGuire

Written by Linda Rosenberg McGuire

Linda Rosenberg McGuire was the Dean of Students at Westtown School from 2011 until 2018. She is a parenting coach, consultant, speaker, and avid writer, providing insight, support, and education for parents and teachers who live and work with teenagers. She works with schools to inspire and reinvigorate their faculty to work successfully with even the most challenging students. Linda is passionate about helping parents develop more effective relationships with their teenagers, stressing the importance of listening, limit-setting, and building competence, character, and independence. Linda has 30 years of experience working with children, most of that time focused on parent-teen relationships. Linda began her career as a caseworker and trip leader for teens-at-risk, leading to work as a community mental health therapist and a school-based counselor. For the past 12 years Linda has been employed in independent school administration, working with teenagers, parents, and faculty as a program director and a dean.Linda received her BA from Bowdoin College, her MSW from the University of New England, and her Master of Organizational Leadership from Nichols College.