Your daughter comes home from school and you innocently ask, “How was your day?” Her response? Blowing up at you! Sound familiar? There are a few things that moms of teenage daughters need to understand when talking to their girls. Your daughter is under a lot of pressure. School, self-image, friends, romance, and the worries about fitting in all turn her into a pressure cooker that’s been building up steam. The problem is, you might not see the steam building because it’s all boiling underneath the surface of your “sweet” girl.
In addition, your teenage daughter is “hard wired” for drama. She’s at a developmental stage where her brain quickly becomes emotionally “flooded.” Undeveloped and primitive parts of her brain can still easily take over; and these parts have reduced abilities. She is in hyper REACT mode; and when she is in that place, nothing good can be accomplished.
- She can’t accurately take in information.
- She can’t reflect on the past.
- She doesn’t have insight into her behavior.
- She doesn’t see the big picture.
- She does not have empathy.
When your daughter is stressed or emotionally flooded, there is only one thing to do. Give her time to calm down.
The good news is that she is not stressed, pressured or reactive all the time. When the stress and pressure go down, you see your sweet little girl again. It’s like she’s back to her old self. If you want to have a good conversation with your daughter, or if you need to talk through some issues, then you need to wait for the right time—which is when your daughter is calm.
Finding the Right Time to Talk
Pay attention to her cues. Given everyone’s hectic schedule, it may make sense to try catch up with your daughter right after school. But she may be trying to process the drama from school that day. She may be afraid that she failed her Spanish test. If you try to force her to talk at this point, it’s probably not going to work. She will get frustrated and Miss Nasty is going to show up. This is often when your daughter responds using only one-word answers; this response rears its head when she is stressed.
However, if you pay attention to your daughter’s cues, you will see that there are times she approaches you and is willing to let you in. Be open and available to those moments, even if they aren’t always convenient for you.
The moment something bad happens is not the right time. You just found out that your daughter has lied to you. Or it’s an hour after curfew, and she’s just walking in the door. Perhaps she threw her shoe across the room and shattered a framed picture. Or she just marched into your room, cursing and yelling that she’s going to the party, whether you like it or not. The moment the incident happens, it’s normal to want to contain the situation; but it is not the time to talk through the situation. You can contain the situation by telling her that you will talk to her tomorrow, or by not letting her leave. There’s a good reason that this isn’t the right time. You and your daughter are going to be a volatile cocktail because you are both emotionally flooded. You are going to be shocked, angry and/or sad, but you are not going to be clear. This is when the drama can escalate quickly between the two of you, and hurtful things may be said.
Talk it through later, or the next day. Give yourself time to get clear about how you are going to handle the situation, and what the consequences are going to be. When you are both calm, you can talk through difficult situations. A calm, productive discussion will never happen the moment an incident occurs.
When she is calm, the timing is right. The best time to connect and enjoy your daughter is when she is calm and relaxed. This is also the best time to work through any kind of situation with your daughter. See the pattern? You can’t control when your daughter is stressed out, but you can avoid pushing her when she is. You can help create a home environment that is relaxed. Let your daughter have downtime after school. Be careful not to be the 24 hour monitor where you are always pushing her. Encourage your daughter. Be open to the spontaneous moments with her.
Remember, when it comes to talking to your teenage daughter, timing is everything.