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5 Tips on How To De-Escalate Your Teen’s Escalating Emotions

Jill was worried about her daughter. Katelyn seemed to always be “on edge.” Jill knew adolescence was an emotional time for most teens, but Katelyn’s emotions seemed through the roof. Years ago, her niece struggled with similar escalating emotions; she ended up having several frightening panic attacks and ultimately turned to drug abuse as a way to calm her nerves.

Jill certainly didn’t want her daughter to be tempted to turn to drugs as a coping mechanism, but she wasn’t sure how to help Katelyn de-escalate.

Disarming a Ticking Time Bomb

Jill’s situation isn’t uncommon. A teen’s emotional turmoil too often leads to substance abuse. Jill is right to be concerned about her daughter. However, there are ways to intervene and help bring teens’ emotions down a notch.

If your teen is experiencing escalating emotions, try these tips:

  • Pause: When your child is in the midst of an emotional crisis, it’s easy to get sucked into the storm. You likely have the urge to jump in, respond and try to fix the issue immediately. The problem is, you’ll end up emotionally escalated yourself. As your teen works both of you into a frenzy, the situation only worsens. It’s often wiser to take a beat. Catch your breath. Develop a plan. Then you’ll be better prepared to speak with and counsel your teen.
  • Stop: Help your teen stop their cycle of negative thinking. They might simply need healthier things to fill their mind. Encourage them to listen to uplifting music, get out in nature, or take up a hobby. These offer healthy outlets for their emotions.
  • Rewind: It’s often helpful to review situations with your teen. Ask questions to help them feel heard and cared for. Repeat their statements back to them and ask them to clarify what they meant. Take a moment to analyze whatever has sent your teen’s emotions skyrocketing. Use questions such as “How could you handle this situation differently next time?” “How did you feel about…” “How did you want things to go?”
  • Record: What situations cause your teen’s emotions to escalate? What circumstances are most stressful? Encourage your teen to keep a journal, and keep one of your own as well. Often, writing things down provides the catharsis your teen needs. And, reflecting on various experiences and interactions can provide valuable insight for future reference.
  • Play: Remember to keep moving forward. It’s tempting to think every issue must be fixed immediately. Pressure to perform perfectly could add stress to your teen. It can be helpful to adjust your mental time span. Consider looking at things over a matter of weeks or months. Don’t ignore issues, but give things time to play out and change, rather than try to fix everything today. Encourage your teen to do the same.



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