If you struggle seeing your kid go through tough social situations, this psychologist has some good tips for helping them navigate social pain
While the tween and teen years can be a lot of fun, they can also be pretty hard. Teens have to navigate some difficult situations as they learn their way around the world, and as parents, it can be equally hard to watch them struggle with tough social situations and not know how to help. Dr. Lucie Hemmen, a psychologist and expert in teen behavior, shares some great tips in a new TikTok video.
“When your teenager is experiencing social pain, it can be incredibly triggering for you, so let’s talk about that,” she begins in her video, before launching into explaining the concept of “coregulation,” which she says is something you’ve been doing for your teen ever since they were born. It’s similar to the concept of emotional regulation— “What we want our teenagers to do over time, but it’s very tricky for them, because in their stage of development, emotions are just very, very overwhelming, and their ability to navigate emotions just isn’t developed yet,” she says.
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“What you do, and you don’t even know it, is you coregulate your teenager,” Dr. Hemmen explains. “When they were a baby and they cried, you would coo and rock and hold and feed and nurture, and that was using your nervous system, which was calm and loving, to coregulate their nervous system.”
She continues, “Now that your baby is a teen, the coregulation is still profoundly, profoundly helpful to them. What that looks like is knowing when you’re getting triggered, because your teen is triggered—in this case, by social pain—and feeling that triggering inside you and working to soothe your triggering.”
So here’s what you should do if your teen is upset and you find that it’s upsetting you: Take a moment for yourself. Do a breathing exercise. Get some tea. Whatever it takes to gather yourself, so you can come back and help your teen coregulate.
“Remember that the biggest gift you have for your teen is not removing their pain—they need painful experiences,” Dr. Hemmen says. “They learn that they can experience painful emotions and survive them. You just need to validate and coregulate your teen with your love and your kindness.”