If you are experiencing violence from your teen, it may be hard to admit that there is a problem, but if your teenager is hitting you, then this is domestic abuse. You deserve to feel safe in your own home and family life.
Look after yourself – This is vital to cope with the anger and aggression from your teen. You probably feel exhausted, demoralised and are likely to be making huge efforts to get a tiny amount of control.
This is not your fault – No parent can avoid making mistakes, life itself is an imperfect process full of disappointments, and difficulties and children need to be able to cope with these.
Choose your battles – You can’t tackle everything at once, put some issues on the back-burner to be dealt with later.
Try not to take it personally – If your child is struggling, it’s often because of a range of issues that may have been beyond your control. Once you are aware of them, you can give the support and help to address their fears and worries.
Separate the behaviour from your teen – You can still love your teen but not like their behaviour. It is not a package and it is important to try to view the behaviour as a stand-alone issue.
Use language that separates the behaviour from your teen – Family Lives works with parents on giving ‘3-part statements’ that really do make a difference: “when you did… I felt… what I want to happen is…”. Repeating this, and being consistent in using it, works. Avoid using language that blames and is negative. Think about what you are saying and how you are saying it, such as the tone, etc.
Ignoring the behaviour won’t make it go away – It is really hard to go through this, but playing it down won’t help it go away. If it is not addressed, the violence could increase and become a life-long pattern; help them break the pattern.
Keep yourself safe – This is so important and ensure you and other members of the family are safe. If you can spot the signs of the conflict turning into violence, have a safety plan for those times. Try to go to a place of safety while you decide what to do next. Call the police if you need to.
Calling the police – You may feel reluctant to call in the police as you may not want your child to get into serious trouble or for other reasons. The police have been working with many families on adolescent to parent violence and abuse and understand the impact. If you are in fear for your safety or you are feeling threatened it is ok to call the police to help diffuse the situation and for you to feel safe.
Redress the balance – Often the only attention you will be giving your teen is in response to negative behaviour. If you feel able to, find moments where you can show your appreciation when they are doing well.
Be aware of your own responses and reactions to conflict – You might be inflaming the situation without meaning to, for example, by shouting or responding back with aggression. Keep yourself calm. Leave the room for a while if you need to. Respond rather than react.
Acknowledge their feelings – “I know you’re really angry”, recognises the fact without criticism. “What would help you now”, offers support but does not have to be agreed to, as does, “I’ll see what I can do and we’ll talk about it later”. A gentle look, a kind touch can convey this without hostility and before trying to talk about what is wrong.
Try to find the root of the anger – School pressures, bullying, friendships, mental health, family breakdown, illness can all be trigger factors that add to a child’s stress levels. They are not excuses but may be reasons for it. Talking through the pressures, listening to your teen attentively, without judging, interrupting or directing them can help them to offload their feelings and release the pressure constructively.
Help them develop self-strategies – Helping your teen to understand the triggers and what to do when they are angry is crucial to help them overcome this. When things are calm, have a chat and find out what they think would work for them. It may be a case of trial and error but it is good to help them manage their emotions and find a different outlet for their angry feelings. They might want to use calming down strategies for their anger or an alternative option is meditation to help them quieten down their mind. Let them know that you are there for them.
Give them space – Recognise that your teen is taking anger out on you and may not know how else to deal with difficult feelings. Once they have calmed down, you may be able to talk to them about what has happened and suggest they let you find them some help.
Don’t fight fire with fire – Avoid using violence with your teen. If you are hitting your teenager in response, then you are giving them the message that it is OK to use violence to solve disagreements. By avoiding using violence, you are setting a positive example of what you find acceptable.
Get support for yourself – Know what support you need, and pick and mix from your friends and relatives to get the best fit that you can. Contact supports services for support and advice.
Choosing your moments
You can choose a quiet moment, preferably one on one, to find out what is the route of their frustration and aggression. Listen to your teen and try to see their point of view. Even if you only see it slightly, let them know, instead of just disagreeing with everything. When your teen trusts that you can hear their views, they may be more likely to talk calmly instead of shouting.
Try to resolve the argument with a compromise, or at least show that you have understood where their emotions are coming from. If the situation becomes too heated and you are finding it difficult to stay calm, walk away. Avoid blame, and let your teen know that you will be able to talk to them again when you have calmed down.