Anxious, Angry, Depressed? What Your Teen’s Emotions Are Telling You

In any year, parenting a teenager is a challenge. Given the challenges of 2020, parenting is more confusing than ever. While guiding your teen may feel daunting, perhaps now it has never been more essential. Your teen — contrary to some outward behavior — is likely relying heavily on you to help them navigate some big transitions and serious uncertainty.

In fact, what your child can’t or won’t articulate verbally is probably being expressed through their feelings and interactions. So, add to your long list of skills “emotion translator” to gain some clarity.

Teen Life in a Pandemic

Since the rise of COVID-19, some of the fallout  for your teen is obvious, e.g.

  • Canceling or postponing parties, proms, graduation, vacations, concerts, etc.
  • Committing to virtual schooling
  • Losing a job/income
  • Being inside with family members increases conflict
  • Viewing screens and online time is now off the charts

On a deeper level, your teen has had crucial life experiences disrupted. Their budding independence is likely stifled and uncomfortable. Just as they took their first tentative steps toward adulthood, the world changed and confined them. The impact of this reality is difficult to quantify but may be quite apparent via displays of anger, depression, anxiety, and more

What Your Teen’s Emotions Are Telling You

Your teen’s brain is a volatile mix. The areas that control emotional reactivity are developing faster than the areas controlling emotional regulation. This will not come as a surprise to most parents. But how can you know how best to respond? Consider the following suggestions:

Recognize the Stressors

Parents are often tempted to tell their kids how easy they have it or how spoiled they are. In reality, teens in any social class are dealing with internal issues, biological changes, and external pressures. For example, your teen may be:

  • Falling in or out of love
  • Worrying for the health of themselves and loved ones
  • Struggling to find a social circle
  • Dealing with a negative body image
  • Coping with academic problems
  • Fretting about how their future will be impacted

The list goes on. Your teen’s emotions tell you how stressed they feel and how badly they need your recognition. All of this brings us to the following considerations:


Parents are often tempted to talk their children out of their feelings. “It’s not so bad” may often come from a place of good intentions. If your teen is “talking” to you via their emotions, what they really need is validation. They desire acknowledgment that their feelings and thoughts are real and justified based on the factors impacting them.

This is not to say you have to agree with how your teen feels or how they are behaving. Rather, you and your child can concur that there are valid reasons for a strong response. From that place of agreement, it’s easier to then discuss how your teen has chosen to react.

Nonjudgmental Listening

You may eventually, one day, receive appreciation for your tact and restraint in this regard. Your teen’s expression of emotions is calling out to you for respect. They are suffering. With fewer internal resources than you have to manage the world, they need to safely express this. And they need you to affirm their current situation.

Listen to them. Hear them. No matter how frustrated or concerned you feel, take your teen’s problems seriously. Your calm and respect pay dividends long-term.

Your Emotions Matter, Too

Obviously, you have your hands full these days. Managing your teen’s emotions can be draining and demoralizing at times. And it’s not like you don’t have a ton of other obligations and responsibilities. Thus, parenting must be balanced with meeting your own needs.

In a time like this, the best option may be to commit to regular therapy sessions for yourself and your family. This way, you can communicate the importance of seeking support openly and without shame to your teen. As a family, you also build skills that will serve you your relationships long into the future. Finally, with the help of a seasoned health professional, you may find that you and your teen can come out of our post-pandemic world closer, stronger, and more resilient. Please read more about teen counseling and contact me soon for a consultation.

Getting Started With Teen Counseling in Lakewood & Longmont Colorado

We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can schedule your appointment via phone, email, or the contact page on our website. We offer both in-person and online counseling. We’re open to whichever option you feel more comfortable with.  We look forward to hearing from you!