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Your Teen & Their Emotions
A Work/Family Focus Newsletter

(of the real world)

Does this describe your teen?! Does your teen blame you, the parent or anyone/anything else, instead of being responsible for their own emotions? Your child's teen years can be a difficult time. Teens may feel overwhelmed by the emotional and physical changes they are going through. At the same time, teens may be facing a number of pressures - from friends to fit in and from parents and other adults to do well in school as well participating in sports or part-time jobs.

ABC's of Normal Emotions

A Activating Event (be aware of why one is having a reaction)
B Evaluate (positive/negative/neutral)
C Response to "B" above

In Dr. Maultsby's book Rational Behavioral Therapy (see Resources at the end of this newsletter), he states that both Rational Behavior Therapy and Rational Self-Counseling denote thinking or any other behavior that obeys three or more of the five rules for ideally healthy mental and emotional self-management:

Five Rules for Rational Thinking

1. Rational Thinking is based on obvious fact.
2. Rational Thinking best helps you to protect yourself from probable harm.
3. Rational Thinking best helps you to achieve your short-term and long-term goals.
4. Rational Thinking best helps you prevent unwanted conflicts with others.
5. Rational Thinking best helps you reliably feel the emotions you want to feel without using alcohol or other drugs.

Have your teen ask himself:

Five Rational Questions

1. Is my thinking based on obvious fact?
2. Will my thinking best help me protect my life and health?
3. Will my thinking best help me achieve my short and long-term goals?
4. Will my thinking best help me prevent unwanted conflicts with others?
5. Will my thinking help me feel the emotions I want to feel without using alcohol or drugs?

Three honest "yes" answers reveal rational and therefore ideally healthy thinking. Three honest "no" answers reveal irrational thinking or behavior.

Remember, what is rational for one person at a particular time, may not be rational for that person at another time AND what may be rational for one person, may not be for others. This is where communication between and parents and children can break down.

How Parents Can Help

  • Remember - teens often react with their emotions first, thought is a secondary response.
  • Listen selectively. Ignore silly remarks that might otherwise upset you.
  • As a parent, you don't have to act how you feel.
  • If your teen is not making sense (contradicts herself) - don't tell her, let her discover it herself. If she discovers it for herself, she can change it - she's in control.
  • Call a time-out and wait until emotions subside and talk again.
  • Show your teen that there are three ways of looking at every life happening:
    1. Your way.
    2. The way of everyone who disagrees with you.
    3. Three out of five Rules for Rational Thinking stated on page one of this newsletter.

Tips for Teens on Dealing with Their Emotions

Consider others.
Listen and seek to understand by taking the perspective of another person ("put yourself in another's shoes").

Learn to express your feelings in an appropriate way.
It is important to let people close to you know when something is bothering you and how you are feeling.

Think before you act.
Consider the possible positive and negative consequences, before you get carried away by your emotions and say or do something you might regret.

Strive for balance in your life.
Don't obsess about problems at school, work or home - focus on the positive things in your life. Make time for things you enjoy.

Take care of your physical health.
Physical and mental health are two sides of the same coin. Be proactive in taking care of your own body. It's yours for life.


Rational Behavioral Therapy,
Maultsby, Maxie C. , MD, Tangram Books, 1990.

The Adolescent Self: Strategies for Self-Management, Self-Soothing, and Self-Esteem in Adolescence,
Wexler, David B., WW Norton & Co., 1991.

Emotional Intelligence,
Goleman, Daniel, Bantam Books, Inc, 1997.

Yes, Your Teen is Crazy: Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind,
Bradley, Michael J., Harbor Press, Inc., 2001.

Focus Adolescent Services

Written by Mary McClain Georgevich

CopeLine is published by:
COPE, Inc.
1120 G Street, NW, Suite 550
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 628-5100

This material may be reproduced without permission provided that it is not modified or altered in any way and acknowledgment is made to COPE, Inc.
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