Teenage Drama Queen

Posted · Add Comment

You have a teen and they behave like a Drama Queen, join the rest of the parents experiencing the same.

Article I recently wrote for Rescu.com.au

While it is mostly girls who do this, there are some boys who join the ranks of being rather over dramatic when emotions overwhelm them too.

What makes teens turn into a raving Drama Queen when things don’t work out the way they expect or want?

Research tells us it is due to dramatic changes in their rapidly developing brains.

The feeling centres beneath the cortex are actually more sensitive in teens than in younger children or adults. The frontal cortex part of the brain that guides a calming and rational response does not fully develop until adulthood. It is the frontal lobes in their brains, which control impulses, reasoning and planning and these are the last to be connected ready for adulthood. This part is responsible for judgment, impulse control, mood, emotions or logical decision-making and is the last part to fully develop. There is nothing wrong with your teen, they are developing normally.

And we might as well add that you are living with a girl whose key support system – her tribe – consists of peers who are also as reactive and erratic as they will ever be. Your daughter works hard every day to harness powerful and unpredictable emotions so that she can get on with doing everything else she means to do.

When your daughter (or son) complains, just listen quietly as you are providing them with a way to unload the tension of their day. Often parents want to do something as they listen to their child’s disclosures, to offer advice, point them in the right direction, or set a path of altered behaviour. Do not solve their problems as they need to discover their own resolution. They often just want to be heard, understood and told they are alright and not too weird. If you do offer a suggestion it may be rejected even if your advice is wise. First and foremost — cool down

What a daughter broadcasts usually equals what she is actually experiencing. It is that intense. It is important to take her feelings seriously, regardless of how exaggerated they might seem.

Venting to you allows your teen to express their frustrations, anger, confusion and sadness that they often don’t even understand. Teens can often hold their emotions in check for a good part of the day until such time as they feel safe enough to release. It may be regrettable you cop the deluge but better you than the neighbours, teachers or classmates.

Staying calm is one of the hardest things a parent can do, especially when feeling attacked by your child. Not reacting back to them with anger or exaggerated emotion is essential albeit difficult. If you find it hard to control your emotions, just imagine how arduous it is for your teen who has yet to develop that part of their brain. It is up to the parents to demonstrate restraint as this is how your teen will learn self-control, via you. Your teen will come through the other side hopefully after their brain further develops. In the meantime, love, patience and humour can assist parents to cope. Not humour directed toward the teen but discussion between the parents privately as part of their survival mode.

If you really want to help your child manage their overreactions:

1. Stay calm, do not react back.

2. Breathe deeply for a few breaths allowing your body to relax and calm.

3. After your child settles down, enquire as to the subject or reason it was about.

4. Ask them what they could do differently next time a feeling like that overwhelms them.

5. Accept their complaints knowing you are a trusted sounding board.

6. Never yell back at your teen.

7. Never compare their behaviour to yours at that age, or to others.

8. Ask them to consider rewording an angry or demeaning statement to something more appropriate or polite.

Being patient with your teenage drama queen isn’t easy. Their brain doesn’t yet function to understand what they look like or sound like. Allowing the teen to go through their drama process is challenging, it will pass, they will develop into mature individuals soon. Think of all the funny and embarrassing stories you can tell.

Read more from Dr Karen