4 Common Hot-Button Triggers For Parents Of Struggling Teens

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4 Common Triggers For Parents Of Struggling Teens
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Parenting teenagers has its fair share of challenges for most parents, and especially for anxious parents who worry about making mistakes and the repercussions — it all goes with the parenting territory

The consequences of our choices can haunt even the most confident parent, not just in the moment but for the long-term.

RELATED: Why Being A 'Good Enough' Parent Is Actually The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Kids

There are no rule books for parenting. 

We parent to the point of exhaustion, often without any substantial breaks. This makes it all too common for struggling teenagers to trigger their parents' "hot buttons."

Here are those 4 common hot-button issues that teens can trigger in their parents.

1. Watching kids struggle is anxiety-provoking.

As uncomfortable as it is to watch, struggle is a normal and necessary part of growing up. It helps teens learn about making decisions, who they are, who they want to become, and how they want to contribute to the world (just as our own struggles have helped us).

Yet, watching our teens deal with difficulty is hard and even more so for parents who run anxious.

Not only is anxiety contagious, but in caring so much about our children’s welfare, we often want to jump in and resolve their struggles for them. However, doing so is usually not the best decision.

Knowing when to jump in and when to hold back can be confusing, especially when your teen's struggles ignite hot-button issues.

This is when it can be particularly important to tune into what’s going on with you (a.k.a., your whispering anxiety) to optimize your judgment.

2. Not knowing what to do can be confusing and scary.

The voices of other parents, your friends, or family members can drown out your own parenting instincts, making it hard to tune into what you’re feeling and what you really care about.

Whispering anxiety is almost always a part of this messy situation. Translating whispering anxiety requires thoughtful consideration and quiet time to understand where our worries or instincts are trying to steer us.

This can make knowing what to do or how to proceed all the more confusing and frustrating in the heat of an escalated situation.

One technique to deal with your confusion and frustration is by writing out what you're worried about. Doing this can help you see what you are worried about more clearly, so you can work with it — especially if you do not have a listening and supportive ear in a partner.

3. Feeling pushed to your limits complicates your coping.

Another common parenting hot-button issue occurs when you are pushed to your limit. It's not hard to worry about whether you can handle or have the endurance to continue parenting through your teen’s struggles.

Think about when your teen is yelling, not listening, getting into trouble, or simply making your life more complicated. These situations can be overwhelming and leave you wondering if you can really do what needs to be done.

This is when any number of coping tools can emerge, including ones that aren’t as helpful (avoidance, substance abuse, or for older kids like teens, "don’t ask/don’t tell").

Recognizing your limitations and what you need to regain balance can be critical to taking back control in these situations.

As in-flight safety videos often tell us, we must first secure our oxygen masks before helping others. Sometimes, taking a break and carving productive time for yourself is just what you need to regain stamina.

RELATED: A Therapist’s Guide To Overcoming The Anxiety Of Parenting Teens

4. Unresolved issues can be triggered from the past.

Hot-button issues are always related, in part, to a parent’s individual past and unresolved feelings from it. It's easy to be triggered by emotional situations that remind you of painful situations from the past.

It's critical to separate the past, which you do not have control over, from the present, which deserves your attention.

But detangling the present from the past can be challenging. However, when you remember that you are no longer the helpless child or adolescent you once were, you can begin regaining control of the present.

As an adult, you can access an array of cognitive resources you simply did not have in the past.

By harnessing these resources, you can forge a more adaptive solution to the current challenge while beginning to detangle the original associations that created your hot-button issue in the first place.

For parents of struggling teens, dealing with hot-button issues can at times seem to be a daily occurrence. It is natural to worry about making a parenting mistake that could have negative repercussions now and into the future.

There is nothing wrong with you if your buttons are being pushed — it simply confirms you are engaged.

Remember, anxiety can be normal and worrying is actually a good sign that you care. Even if you are pushed beyond your limits, worry helps you recognize the love you have for your child, which activates needed attunement and problem-solving.

Hot-button issues and parenting worries can help you access the courage, focus, and motivation you need to keep up in your best parenting efforts with resilience and love.

RELATED: Why Trust Between Parents And Kids Only Works With Effective Communication

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Dr. Alicia Clark is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. For more help with managing stress and anxiety, check out her anxiety blog, download her free ebook, or sign up for her newsletter.

This article was originally published at aliciaclarkpsyd.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.