You Can't Teach Your Teen To Swim When You're Both Drowning

Do you and your teen BOTH get overwhelmed by their emotions? 

Learn how to manage this overwhelm with the DBT skill called "Wise Mind" which is all about finding the balance between extremes.

If your child was drowning, you wouldn't jump into the deep end and start flailing around and gasping for air, would you?  

So... why do the same when your teen is drowning emotionally?

Know the signs and model healthy coping strategies 

When you notice your teen becoming emotional for any reason, remind yourself that it's your job to stay centered. You are the life raft.  Your job is to be stable to keep your teen afloat.

How can you stay calm in a  sea of emotional overload?

  • Take some deep breaths.  Try a 4-7-8 breath where you breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds and breathe out for eight seconds.  The counting and the breathing through your nose are both important parts of slowing down your body chemistry while occupying your mind.  It's a great go-to tool when you feel your own frustration start to rise.
  • Place two fingers to your wrist or jawline and feel your pulse as you count out fifteen beats.  Tuning into your own body will help to ground you and the rhythm and counting are a great way to refocus and calm down before responding to your teen.
  • Repeat a self-soothe mantra.  Remind yourself, "This too shall pass" or "I can be the life raft" or "I am strong and capable."  Find a way to reassure and comfort yourself.  When you offer yourself compassion in a difficult situation, you can then extend that compassion to your child as well.

Experience feelings while staying rational 

When your teen is overwhelmed by emotions, it's important to know where their feelings end and where yours begin.  If you look at the ven diagram above, it depicts the main concept of Wise Mind.  When someone is ruled by their emotions, they are using Emotion Mind.  When they are making decisions based completely in logic, they are in Reasonable Mind.  It is when you can access the balance, the blend of emotion and reason that you can actually be wise!

 What does this mean for you?  It means that you need to BE the balance so that your teen can SEE the balance!  Do your best to not get pulled over into Emotion Mind and to stay centered using the coping skills above (or coming up with your own.)