Many parents who have both female and male children notice how they feel and express emotions differently. In fact, it is hard not to notice how differently boys and girls react to difficult emotional events.
I read in Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus by John Gray that women’s emotions are like a wave and men’s emotions are like a rubber band. I thought this analogy was extremely accurate and very helpful for parents who are dealing with different sex children. Here is the analogy explained as it applies to teens and parents:
Why Girl’s Emotions Are Like Waves
A girl’s emotionality comes in cycles—often in correlation with her menstrual cycle. Let’s start with the best part of the month: the crest. Like a crest of a wave during a certain time of a woman’s cycle she is at her peak—full of life, energy and riding high. If you have a teen girl, this is when she most resembles the cute little girl who used to inhabit your daughter’s body. She is vivacious, chatty and open-minded. As the month goes on she loses a bit of momentum and her stores of energy become depleted. She slowly reaches the bottom of the wave when there is very little water in the tank. This is when she most closely resembles a sarcastic, snippy, monster. During this time old issues come up and teen girls might even lash out and pick fights. This frustrates parents who don’t understand what ‘set her off.’
What is most important to understand is that nothing in particular ‘set her off’ this is just part of her cycle—but there are things you can do to get her to gain momentum again. Here are the things that teen girls have told us help them move through the low part of the wave more smoothly:
-Tell her you are there for her no matter what
-Don’t tell her it is ‘no big deal’ or ‘don’t overreact’
-Take care of your needs and stay lovingly out of her way.
Why Boy’s Emotions Are Like Rubber Bands
Boys don’t have cycles like girls. They are more like rubber bands. Teen boys can typically be pretty constant in their emotional ups and downs, however they experience feelings as pulling back and getting close. Many parents report that their teens boys will go through phases where they spend way more alone time in their room, are particularly unresponsive during dinner and want more and more time out of the house. If you imagine your teen boy like a rubber band, this is his stretched out period. He, like most men, go through periods where they need some distance in order to be able to snap back. This period of pulling away is actually very important for teen boys, many tell me that this is when they can get a better look on their lives, re-evaluate friendships and sometimes relax from pressure at home. This is not a problem UNLESS parents fight the pulling away with fear.
Many moms, who are worried about their teen boys sudden sullenness approach him with even more fervor than usual. Asking him questions (from a loving place) like:
“Is everything OK, you seem really quiet?”
“Are you eating enough, I haven’t seen you at breakfast in FOUR days!”
“Honey, I really need you to open up to me about what is going on for you. Are you on drugs? I am worried about you.”
These questions are well-meaning but it is hard for a teen boy who is trying to get his alone time. This makes them resentful, angry and want to pull back even more. I am not encouraging parents to ignore their son if he seems different or upset. Here are some things teen boys have told us their parents can do when they are in the ‘stretched out part of their rubber band:’
-Ask the simple question, “is there anything I can do for you right now?” and if we say no, let us be.
-If you want to engage us, sometimes talking isn’t the best way. Take us to an activity we can do together so we can relax and open up in a less interrogation like setting.
-Let us stick to our routine. When we are feeling like we need space, routine is good. Keep Taco Tuesday going, no surprise chore schedules or trips they throw us off from stretching back to normal.
As Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus points out these apply wonderfully to any female and male adults. Ask your teens if they feel these analogies are true and what they would want you to do when they are at the hard part of their cycles.
Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus by John Gray
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