Therapy For When Fighting Between Teens and Family Becomes Problematic
In our therapy with teens, we often see that sometimes the closer you are–being in the family, in this instance–the harder it is to see when fighting has really spun out of control. When you couple that with the assumption that teenage children are always irritable and difficult, there’s concern that a bad situation may not be addressed with the urgency it needs. To be clear, families shouldn’t have to live with fighting more than from time to time, fighting that includes physical or verbal aggression, or fighting that leaves one or all parties feeling beat up.
However, it’s also important to be cautious with the sentiment that difficult behavior from teens is something they just grow out of. Things can get better, but they don’t often get better without attention.
What Are We Fighting About And Why Can’t It Stop?: Dealing With What’s Really Going On
What do teens and their parents say they’re fighting about? Money, privileges, grades, friends, etc. In our therapy with teens, we want to honor that those things–those “surface battles”–are important and real, while also recognizing that fighting is often about so much more. This can include fears about growing up, changing relationships and sadness from long ago that is not yet grieved or that is being grieved now.
Sometimes, teens are aware of what they’re really fighting about, but are afraid to say it. Other times, they don’t even know themselves. Few relationships are as complicated as a parent and child, and in the churning and tumbling of a decade plus of life, there’s surely plenty to be upset about.
But, what compounds this is that teenagers are, in a sense, waking up from childhood, learning to make sense of the world as semi-adults. Because of this, they are at a moment when they’re prone to taking a look at everything through new, more grown-up eyes. Old hurts and traumas, as well as tensions that have been perhaps latent, may reemerge in a manner that feels out of nowhere to a parent who may have a hard time understanding why an issue that seemed moot may be newly activated. What makes sense to an 8-year-old is often being wholly reexamined by that very same 16-year-old.
Therapy Can Both Discover The Cause Of Fights And Give It The Attention It Needs
The reason it’s important to find out what teens and families are really fighting about is that, then, we can really give it the attention it needs. In order to do this, a therapist might work one-on-one with a teen to help him or her better understand this. Family therapy, too, in which both the teen and the parent or parents are present, can be especially helpful in regards to fighting.
Parents and teens alike can often be skeptical about the process, wondering, “How will you, someone new to our family, help us understand something better than we can, having lived it forever?” That’s where our practice’s skill at listening is so meaningful and where the fact that we aren’t so close and that we haven’t been so involved can be our best asset. We can see things that parents and teens are often too close to see.
Therapy With Teens As Conflict Resolution
We work to locate ourselves in fights and disagreements as a party that isn’t invested in one side versus the other. Rather, we act as allies that take the side of the relationship or the family unit. Living together as a family means that not everyone can get his or her way. How can we negotiate those sacrifices? How can we better understand that our disagreements, positions and grudges are perhaps at odds with the needs of the family as a whole?
To be clear, we don’t want to shut fights down. Teens and families need to develop their capacity to manage disagreements, putting egos aside and holding back on being triggered in favor of really working to hear with fresh ears something that has perhaps been said for years. Being heard is everything in fights. Sometimes just being heard transforms the disagreement itself–once someone is heard, he or she often no longer feels as invested in their position.