How to De-escalate a Crisis With Your Teen

5 Tips for How to De-escalate a Crisis With Your Teen

An Emotional Time for Teens 

how to de escalate a crisis with your teen sad teen on her phone and looking out the window

With COVID-19 disrupting the way we live our daily lives, it’s no wonder we are all feeling a bit down and out. Whether it’s not seeing friends, cancelled prom and graduation, or just being cooped up in the house, teens may be having a really hard time right now, and may be exhibiting signs of anxiety, sadness and even depression.

“For teens, this new way of life can be hard to deal with, especially when they are stuck in the house and their normal activities have changed,” says Lauren Snyder, LPC, ACS, Program Director, Children’s Mobile Response. “It’s important for parents to be sensitive to their teen’s feelings and maintain open communication. It’s not an easy time for anyone, but for teens especially, this ‘new normal’ is not normal at all.”  

If you're wondering how to de escalate a crisis with your teen, here are 5 tips to address your teen’s emotional and aggressive behaviors:
  1. Talk about it. Ask your teen what is bothering them and encourage them to express their feelings about the situation. We must remind our teens how important it is to talk about our feelings and to make sure we model this behavior for them as well.   
  2. Provide Space. If your teen does not want to talk about it, do not pressure them. Provide some distance for a while in order for them to “cool down” and reset.  Choose a room or space in your home where they can “escape” to in order to reset—you can even label it their “safe space”.  If they are actively aggressive, remember to remain calm. They are angry and letting their aggression out. Do not meet them at their level; this will cause more aggression. 
  3. Discuss coping skills. If your teen typically becomes agitated, upset, or aggressivemake a list of coping skills they can use before, during, or after the behavior. Listening to music, taking deep five-second breaths, punching a pillow or punching bag, drawing or coloring, journaling, talking to a friend or family member, taking a walk or run, riding their bike, and baking are some suggestions to share. It can be anything that your teen can identify to help them de-escalate.  
  4. Be Present. It’s always important to remember that we need to model the behaviors we want our teens to do. If you are on your laptop for work or on your phone, your teen may think it is ok for them too. Set aside a time to “unplug” in your household. Schedule some quality time with them; possibly one-on-one when needed. Cooking, baking, reading, doing puzzles, walking, watching a movie, or playing a video game. 
  5. Praise, Praise, Praise.  This is the most important relationship advice for parents. It can prevent your teen from having these behaviors at times. Not only do we want to praise them for doing something “right, but try to catch them in the moment of doing something you did not ask of them.  For example, “Sam, I just noticed that you took the trash out without me asking. Wow, I’m impressed how you took the initiative of taking out the trash when noticing it was full. I appreciate how caring and thoughtful you are, thank you!” 
Is your child or teen experiencing an escalating emotional or behavior issue?

Acenda’s Children's Mobile Response (CMR) provides crisis outreach to children and youth up to 21 years of age who are experiencing escalating emotional or behavioral issues. CMR workers respond to diffuse an immediate crisis and keep children and teens safe and stable within their homes.  Crisis interventions include de-escalation, service linkage, and short term stabilization management. 

If your situation is not immediately life-threatening, call 1-877-652-7624 and follow the menu prompts provided for an urgent situation. This service is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

how to de escalate a crisis with your teen mother comforting her young daughter

Currently, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are able to provide crisis interventions via telephone or telehealth (video) platforms. However, if the family prefers, we can provide face-to-face crisis services within one hour of notification.